The lies and distortion continue from the anti-biotech crowd traipsing through California hiding behind their anti-corporate, socialist, anti-human agenda in opposing agriculture biotechnology.

A news release from "Californians for GE-Free Agriculture" went out to the media promoting a series of seminars where "Midwestern Farmers Share Their Stories throughout California" about the horrors biotechnology.

The program lists as speakers three supposedly Midwest farmers and a California rice grower, Ron Lee, who produces conventional and organic rice.

Where is the California grower who produces biotech corn or cotton? There are more than 600,000 acres of biotech crops growing in California and this group could not find one producer willing to debate the issue? Where are the University of California scientists who have researched and evaluated this technology?

According to the news release, "This panel provides a rare opportunity to hear first-hand from farmers and farmer advocates who have been grappling with the impacts of this as yet unproven technology" read the news release.

Unproven! That is garbage.

Who are these Midwest Farmers?

Bill Wenzel was one of the speakers. He is executive director of Wisconsin Rural Development Center (WRDC) in Mt. Horeb, Wis. WRDC is a "nonprofit organization comprised of family farmers, environmentalists, church leaders, consumers, and rural activists. It promotes social and economic justice in rural Wisconsin; to protect rural natural resources; and to activate an effective voice for rural citizens." according to its Web site.

Sure sounds like a farmer who has something to lend to the biotechnology debate in California.

George Naylor of Churdan, Iowa was another speaker. He is a small farmer and a member of the National Family Farm Coalition. He does not like Freedom to Farm. He opposes "factory farms." He wants to go back to the days of high loan rates; non-recourse government loans and government storage of surplus commodities. He basically wants the government to support him, yet claims the government is inept at evaluating and regulating biotech crops.

Naylor sued Monsanto for anti-trust and lost. He basically wants to grow propriety planting seed and sell it to anyone he wants. He was one of four plaintiffs in an unsuccessful lawsuit against Monsanto. One of his co-plaintiffs was a GMO grower.

Another speaker listed was Dan McGuire, an absentee owner of a 320-acre farm in central Nebraska. He share crops it with another farmer. He basically works for the American Corn Growers Association, a groups that claims 14,000 members in 36 states. It was formed in 1987 because a minority of corn growers did not like the way the government farm program was evolving.

The American Corn Growers Association is not to be confused with the National Corn Growers Association founded in 1957 that represents 32,000 dues-paying corn growers from 48 states and the interests of more than 300,000 farmers who contribute to the corn check-off programs in 20 states.

Who is Californians for GE-Free Agriculture? They call themselves "a unique coalition of sustainable farming, environmental, and consumer organizations united top prevent genetically engineered (GE) agriculture in California. Members include: California Certified Organic Farmers, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Ecological Farming Association, Four Elements Farm, Genetic Engineering Action Network, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, and Organic Consumers Association."

The so-called information meetings about genetically engineered crops were charades of misinformation and distortions. They were not valid debates about biotechnology.

What is even more galling about these so called information meetings was that two were held in public buildings, the Chico City Council chambers and the Marin County Board of Supervisors offices and one was at an American Legion Hall in Arroyo Grande, Calif.

A third was held in the Sonoma County Farm Bureau building in Santa Rosa. This is ludicrous. We have been told that the California Farm Bureau Federation is spearheading the grassroots effort to turn back this anti-GMO effort in California and a Farm Bureau chapter opens its facilities to a farce like this anti-GE rally? If Farm Bureau is leading this effort, God help California agriculture.

It is one thing to host a legitimate debate on genetically modified crops. It is entirely something different to allow a group whose avowed goal is to wipe out production agriculture in California to use a Farm Bureau facility for propaganda purposes.

I wonder if the American Legion members looked into the agenda of the group renting its hall.

As for the use of public buildings, opening up to this group for this media circus is tantamount to renting the city council chamber or supervisor offices to the Ku Klux Klan or the neo-Nazi party for a rally. Again, using public facilities for a legitimate debate is worthy. Opening it for people to spew half truths and lies about California agriculture is wrong. A lot of farmers live in Chico and the city council can expect to hear about this misuse of public facilities.

Harsh words? You bet. This anti-biotechnology travesty being palmed off on California is a very serious threat to not only California growers and ranchers, but to a major source of food and fiber for California and the world.

Should the issue of biotechnology be debated? Absolutely. There are serious issues with this technology. Is it unsafe? No? Millions of dollars in research have proven that. Are there ethical, moral and economic issues with the technology? Certainly.

Californians have the right to all the facts — not just the junk tossed out by Californians for GE-Free Agriculture and the likes. There are hundreds of legitimate scientists and farmers who are capable of presenting a balanced picture of the issue. Shams like gatherings sponsored by these radical, anti-government groups are not where the facts will be presented.

e-mail:hcline@primediabusiness.com