"Farmers and citizens around the world who are concerned about the use of genetically engineered crops have been watching the extraordinary grass-roots movement..." (item 1)
In the US the biotech industry is getting increasingly bogged down on the home front with pharma rice stalled (item 3) and Measure H on in California, a bill requiring the labelling of GM seeds passing in Vermont (item 1), and now a ballot likely in North Dakota giving it the power to halt GM wheat (item 2).
Because of the embarrassment of unsuccessfully spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to block such measures, one tactic the industry is certain to adopt is the use of farmer lobby groups like the Farm bureau as a source of pressure against such measures (see item 4).
For more on the Farm Bureau and why it is not just in the pocket of corporate America but is regarded as "a perfect sewer-line for transporting right-wing ideology", see http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=267&page=T
GMO bill passes Senate ... [clipped]
Battleboro Reformer, Saturday, April 17, 2004
By Reformer Staff and the Associated Press
MONTPELIER -- The Senate on Friday passed a bill that could make Vermont the first state in the country to require the labeling of genetically engineered seeds.
The measure requires labeling of all genetically engineered seeds sold in Vermont and requires companies to report the sale of such seeds to the state.
The move was hailed by a national coalition of anti-GMO groups. "Farmers and citizens around the world who are concerned about the use of genetically engineered crops have been watching the extraordinary grass-roots movement in the state of Vermont," said Bill Wenzel, national director of the Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering, in a written statement.
The bill, which passed in the House last week, now moves to the governor for his signature.
GMO ballot measure approved
Associated Press, April 16, 2004
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A ballot measure that would restrict biotech wheat plantings in North Dakota is ready for circulation, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said.
Supporters of the initiative must gather petition signatures from at least 12,844 North Dakota voters to put the measure to a statewide vote. They have a year to do so. To qualify for the November ballot, petitions must be turned in by Aug. 4.
Karl Limvere, a Medina pastor and rural activist who is chairman of the initiative's sponsoring committee, said the goal of the measure's backers is "to get it on the ballot as quickly as we can.''
"Whether we are there for the November ballot is another kind of question,'' Limvere said Thursday. "It will depend on how well it's received, our volunteer force, all of those kinds of things have to factor in. I don't want to get into the business of trying to predict when things will happen.''
The measure would give North Dakota's agriculture commissioner authority to decide whether farmers could plant genetically modified wheat. The commissioner would have to appoint a six-member review panel to study the question, and hold at least one public hearing.
Backers of the proposal say North Dakota's export markets for hard red spring wheat and durum would be slammed by the introduction of biotech wheat here, because customers in Japan and Europe have said they do not want it.
Monsanto Co., which is based in St. Louis, is developing a hard red spring wheat variety than is genetically modified to withstand applications of the company's Roundup weed-killer.
Jaeger and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem review the formatting of initiative petitions before they may be circulated. They also draft an explanation of what the measure would do, which is called the ballot title.
The review was completed Thursday. It does not change the text of the measure, Jaeger said.
"We have to accept whatever comes in, exactly the way it comes in. We cannot change that at all,'' Jaeger said. "The only thing that we deal with is the ballot title ... and also we address the format. That's the limit of what we can do.''
USDA denied Ventria a permit for their pharm rice!
We won this round!! And so did California's rice farmers.
Let's keep insisting that pharm crops -- plants bioengineered to produce medications which those plants never previously produced -- don't belong out of doors at all, and that food crops shouldn't be altered to produce medications.
Let's remember that the "health" product L-tryptophan was produced by a genetically engineered bacterium and the result was small doses of poison which killed over a hundred people and injured thousands. Let's insist that the precautionary principle must be applied.
Transgenic products cannot be assumed safe until there is exhaustive study looking for aberrant metabolism and unanticipated health effects.
Jim Diamond, M.D.
Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Committee (chair)
Farmers seek aid against restrictions
By JIM HOOK
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has stepped up its lobbying against local ordinances that target agricultural practices.
More than 300 farmers from across the state gathered Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg. Eight local farmers met with area legislative delegates during their annual spring rally.
The farmers joked that the lawn at the Governor's Mansion with all its kitsch cows would need a concentrated animal operation (CAO) permit.
But they were serious in protecting "environmentally sound farm practices" from "illegal local ordinances" -- in the words of Betsy Huber, Master of the Pennsylvania Grange.
Gov. Ed Rendell vetoed a bill last year that would have allowed a farmer to recover attorney's fees if he beat a township law ruled a nuisance ordinance in court. If the farmer lost, he would have paid the township attorney's fees.
Rendell had said he wanted a more comprehensive approach to the issue.
Farmers were in Harrisburg to ask the governor for his comprehensive approach, according to Titus Martin, a dairyman from Fayetteville and past president of the Franklin County Farm Bureau. Rendell didn't offer one.
More than 50 townships have exceeded their powers by adopting ordinances that restrict the growth and operation of farms, according to the state farm bureau.
Townships have taken on farming issues because the state has refused to protect citizens' health, welfare and public safety, according to Tom Linzey, staff attorney in Chambersburg for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. His group has drafted sample ordinances regulating factory farming, ordinances challenged by the farm bureau in court.
"The state is bought and sold by farm bureau and agribusiness interests," Linzey said.
Martin said there has been a push for municipalities to prohibit the use of genetically altered seed, such as Round-up-ready corn and soybeans.
Linzey said he is not aware of any Pennsylvania municipality that has adopted such an ordinance, but his group has posted a sample ordinance on its Web site. Vermont and California communities have taken action against genetically modified seed.
The special seed offers higher yields to farmers, but environmental groups have questioned the safety of genetically altered crops.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has responded with a section in a bill regulating the certification of seed. House Bill 2387 would prohibit municipalities from regulating the registration, labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, notification of use or use of seeds.
Martin said farmers also lobbied state legislators about out-of-control health care costs, property tax reform and regulation of manure haulers.