1.MONTVILLE: FIRST U.S. TOWN OUTSIDE OF CALIFORNIA TO BAN GE CROPS
2.Montville residents vote to ban GM plants
3.Citizens' group wants a law to ban GE crops in Monterey
4.'Hej da GMO!' - 'Goodbye GMOs' in Sweden
NOTE: Check out the WORLD CONGRESS ON THE FUTURE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE, in Bonn, Germany, 12-16 MAY 2008, which is taking place during the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and their Protocol on Biosafety, which will be looking at liability and redress for damage caused by GMOs.
1.MONTVILLE: FIRST U.S. TOWN OUTSIDE OF OF CALIFORNIA TO BAN GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS
Town Meeting Voters Call on Senator Carol Weston (R - Montville) to Protect All Maine Farmers from Genetic Contamination
MONTVILLE, MAINE. Voters at Montville's annual town meeting on Saturday passed a binding ordinance banning the cultivation of genetically engineered crops in their community. This makes Montville the first town outside of California to pass a binding measure restricting genetically modified crops. The ordinance was developed after residents directed the town to include such a ban in the town's comprehensive plan at town meeting in Spring of 2006. The ordinance passed overwhelmingly in a voice vote and requires town residents growing genetically modified crops to phase them out within two years. For the past two years residents have been working with farmers growing genetically engineered crops on phasing in new non genetically modified varieties.
According to Jen King, owner and operator of Skyview Family Farm and a proponent of the ordinance, 'Genetic engineering is a new kind of pollution that spreads and reproduces when it is released into the environment. Once a GE crop exists in the environment, its pollen can be passed on, contaminating other plants from the same species. And these newly contaminated plants can then reproduce the pollution, thereby threatening the diversity of our crops crops and heirloom seeds. Through our farmers' coop, we've have been working with the few farmers in the town who are growing genetically modified crops, to switch to crops that will benefit our local food economy, such as as providing local non GMO grain for sale to area farmers.'
Food for Maine's Future, the group that has been encouraging communities around the state to take action to protect area farmers from genetically engineered crops, was pleased with the results. 'This is an historic and unprecedented example of a community coming together to declare food independence and take action to protect its farming community. We hope this sends a clear message to Senator Weston to support LD1650 - a bill that's a first step toward protecting farmers from genetic trespass. ' said Rob Fish, an organizer with Food for Maine's Future. 'We encourage other towns to educate themselves and then take action on this important issue whether by passing a town meeting resolution or hosting community discussions on the issue.'
After a year of negotiations, compromises and hard work, the Agriculture Committee has finally voted An Act to Amend the Laws Concerning Genetically Engineered Plant and Seeds out of Committee and to the floor of the House of Representatives. The bill establishes the right of Maine farmers to be heard in a court located in Maine if they are sued by a seed manufacturer for A GMO patent violation as long as they don't have a current contract with that company. It also prevents farmers from being sued for A patent violation if they have only a minimal presence of engineered genetic material in their corps, or if they didn't intend for it to be there, and directs the Maine Department of Agriculture to establish Best Management Practices for the use of Genetically Engineered Crops.
According to Logan Perkins, organizer of the Food for Maine's Future Protect Maine Farmers Campaign, 'The final amended version of the LD1650 does some important things to protect Maine farmers, but still doesn't go far enough to provide our policymakers with all the information they need to make good decisions that effect the future of agriculture in Maine. The bill should also require manufacturers of genetically engineered seed to submit an annual report to the Maine Department of Agriculture giving the total number of potential acres that could be planted in each type of genetically engineered crop. This would allow the Department of Agriculture to track the use of genetically engineered crops, see trends in their use, and be alerted to new crops coming into the state.'
Kai George summed up the feelings of many at the meeting in her testimony before the vote 'I'm concerned not only about the potential effect genetic engineering has on our health and our environment, but also on the effect the growing of GE crops has on farmers and gardeners who want to grow crops conventionally or organically without the threat of contamination from GE crops. We need to have a choice about what we grow in our fields and gardens, without threat of contamination from GMOs. We need to have a choice about the food we eat. We need to preserve our environment. We are doing this today, by imposing a moratorium on the growing of genetically modified crops in Montville and demanding that our legislators pass laws to protect our rights as consumers and farmers.'
The Towns of Liberty and Brooklin passed non binding resolutions declaring themselves 'GE Free Zones' in 2005 and 2007. Montville passed a resolution directing the town to develop an ordinance imposing a moratorium on GM crops in 2006. Several counties in California have imposed binding moratoriums on genetically modified crops.
In reacting to the vote Jen King added, 'Our farms and our farmers are precious resource. As a town, we are urging the state legislators to provide all farmers with the protections they deserve to grow the crops that they choose for years to come without the threat of lawsuits or genetic contamination.'
For more information:
Kai George, Montville resident 207-589-4381; Jen King, Skyview Family Farm, 207-557-0547; Maia, After the Fall Farm 589-3733.
2.Montville residents vote to ban genetically modified plants; move is believed to be first outside of California
BY MORNING SENTINEL STAFF Morning Sentinel, April 1 2008 http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com/news/local/4923564.html
MONTVILLE -- Organic supporters hailed Saturday's vote to adopt a town ordinance banning the use of genetically modified plants as a landmark decision -- but farmers who rely on the pest-resistant crops say farming communities are unlikely to follow suit.
Residents at Saturday's town meeting overwhelmingly approved an ordinance that prohibits growing genetically engineered crops for the next 10 years. The few Montville farmers currently growing the engineered crops are required to register with the code enforcement officer while phasing out use over the next two years.
Believed to be the first municipal ban on genetically engineered crops outside of California, it is unclear whether the ordinance conforms with state law, according to a spokesman for the Maine Department of Agriculture.
Ned Porter, deputy commissioner of the department, who had not seen the ordinance, said Monday that the department will seek input from the attorney general's office.
Maine statute requires the department to review town ordinances that impact agriculture, Porter said.
'How that may play out in this case I'm not sure,' he said.
The moratorium is the latest turn in a sometimes heated debate over the use of genetically engineered crops.
While organic farmers worry about cross-contamination, the evolution of super-resistant pests and even lawsuits due to accidental contamination, farmers who rely on genetically engineered crops say the technology is a safe and efficient method for reducing the use of dangerous herbicides and turning a better yield. Maine, which has allowed other forms of genetically engineered crops, in July became the last state in the union to allow the use of so-called Bt corn.
State representatives are expected to vote as early as today on L.D. 1650, a bill that would amend laws concerning genetically engineered plants and seeds. While that bill has spawned debate, the Montville moratorium passed with ease, said Montville First Selectman Jay LeGore.
'A few people were concerned about government regulations,' LeGore said.
'People don't want government telling them what they can and can't do on their property.'
Montville's Diana George Chapin, who helped develop the ordinance over the past two years -- residents passed a resolution in 2006 demanding the town develop an ordinance banning genetically engineered crops -- breeds early American and Victorian-era plants at Heirloom Garden of Maine.
'The plants we have are pure plants that have been saved by ordinary people like ourselves for many generations,' Chapin said.
But her primary motivation for helping make the moratorium a reality was concern for her family, friends and security of the food system, she said.
'We are not involved in this out of concern for our business,' Chapin said. 'We're concerned about the future of seed.'
Saturday's decision, which was primarily rendered by consumers, not farmers, proves that concern runs across the spectrum, Chapin said.
'That, to me, made a powerful statement about this community and said something about who is concerned about this issue,' Chapin said. 'It's not just farmers.'
Logan Perkins of Protect Maine Farmers, a statewide organization that opposes the use of genetically engineered crops, said Montville's decision was an example of what could happen in other communities.
'It's clearly a demonstration of where the public in general stands,' Perkins said. 'Montville happens to be the first place to get organized. In some ways, Montville is a bellwether of public opinion.'
But Vernon DeLong, executive director of the Maine Agriculture Bargaining Council in Presque Isle, said similar ordinances are unlikely to be imposed in communities where farming is a lifeblood.
'If you were in an agricultural area I don't think you'd stand a chance of doing that,' he said.
While he does not fear similar bans spreading throughout the state, DeLong said he is troubled by what he called Montville's willingness to put farmers at a disadvantage.
'We think growers struggling to make a living need all the tools available to them to grow the market,' DeLong said. 'There's nothing that says genetically engineered whatever is harmful. Even mother nature genetically engineers crops. This relates from fear more than science.'
Rather than state or town intervention, the Department of Agriculture has always encouraged farmers to work together to keep each other informed of the types of crops they are growing and to resolve conflict.
'That's the way it works best,' Porter said. 'Farmers in these times need access to all the tools.'
Chapin believes banning the use of genetically engineered crops will allow farmers to tap into a market eager to buy the freshest, healthiest food possible.
'I think there's a massive potential for genetically-engineered-free crops in this country and in this world,' Chapin said. 'The state of Maine should think really hard about the economic potential of having a genetically-engineered-free state.'
But when DeLong switched to standard canola varieties rather than genetically engineered a number of years ago hoping to find a niche market, he found none existed.
'All in all we thought we could find a market that would reward us for doing that,' DeLong said. 'In the final analysis we gave up. You produce the market and it will take care of itself.'
Heather Spalding, associate director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, praised Montville for its decision and for proactively helping farmers phase out genetically engineered crops. 'The big thing is communicating the alternatives that organic farmers are using,' Spalding said. 'It doesn't have to be an adversarial approach. It can be a real bridge-building approach.'
Craig Crosby -- 487-3288
3.Citizens' group wants a law to ban genetically engineered crops
Ag Advisory Committee considers GMOs
By Zachary Stahl MONTEREY COUNTY, MARCH 6 2008 http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/archives/2008/2008-Mar-06/20-citizens-group-wants-a-law-to-ban-genetically-engineered-crops/1/@@index
Several years ago seed giant Monsanto offered Salinas Valley growers a genetic solution to their weed problem with spring mix. Monsanto was developing a lettuce variety resistant to Roundup, the company’s leading herbicide. Farmers could have killed weeds with Roundup without harming the genetically engineered spring mix. But the industry shied away.
'It was dropped very quickly,' says Jim Manassero, chairman of the Monterey County Agricultural Advisory Committee. 'Number one, the industry didn’t want it.' Manassero says a state law would have had to change to allow the vegetables to be harvested after being doused with Roundup. Plus, consumers would have balked at the prospect.
'It becomes very easy for that type of science to get blown out of proportion by the media and to make it all lettuce is poisoned or could be,' Manassero says.
The genetically modified seeds never reached the valley floor. While Monsanto has taken over the corn and soybean seed market, Monterey County ag officials maintain that no genetically engineered crops have been grown in the county. Some local organic farmers and environmentalists want to keep it this way.
On Feb. 28 a group of small farmers and Monterey Peninsula residents asked the Agricultural Advisory Committee to recommend a county ban on GE crops. Lorna Moffat, who is spearheading the effort, proposed the moratorium in response to a November speech by Dr. Henry Daniell of the University of Florida about producing insulin from genetically modified lettuce.
Moffat told the committee that federal agencies do a poor job monitoring GE crops, and no long-term studies have been done to monitor their health impacts. 'Few regulations to protect public health and our environment are in place,' Moffat said, warning that GE crops could cross-pollinate other produce.
Alex Sancen is an organic farmer who grows on less than five acres at the Agricultural & Land-Based Training Association outside Salinas. Sancen told the committee that his farmers market customers are concerned about GE crops tainting their produce. 'They are speaking of buying vegetables from Santa Cruz County if you guys don’t do anything,' Sancen said.
Sancen and dozens of other ALBA farmers want the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance similar to one that exists in Santa Cruz County. In 2006 Santa Cruz supervisors banned growing genetically engineered crops. The county code makes exemptions for GE pharmaceuticals grown in state or federally licensed, indoor labs.
Santa Cruz is the most recent California county to prohibit GM crops. In 2004, Mendocino County became the first in the U.S. to ban GMOs, followed by Trinity and Marin counties. While a handful of liberal, coastal counties have outlawed the crops, anti-GMO ballot initiatives in Butte, Humboldt, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma counties have failed at the polls.
In addition, at least 12 counties, mostly in the conservative and agriculturally-rich Central Valley, have passed resolutions supporting ag biotechnology.
The only related thing that Monterey County has on the books is a code regulating the experimental release of GE microorganisms. The county crafted the code in the ‘70s in response to a bacteria intended to prevent frost on strawberries, says Bob Roach, assistant agricultural commissioner.
Pesticide-resistant crops, GE plants and pharmaceuticals fall under the purview of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration, respectively, Roach says. County ordinances 'are largely symbolic because no one really wanted to grow these crops in these counties,' he adds.
The same goes for Monterey County. 'I don’t think they are on our door step,' Roach says. 'I don’t think they are even coming up the walk yet.'
But Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue and some ag officials want to leave the door open for GE research. Donohue hopes to usher in higher-paying jobs by attracting pharmaceutical, biotechnology and alternative energy firms. He says he will oppose any regulations restricting biotechnology. 'The reality is our scientists want to be free to do business,' he says.
Donohue says just because Daniell spoke in Salinas about insulin-producing lettuce doesn’t mean that research is moving forward. 'This is all speculative,' he says. 'He gave a speech. Nobody is making plans. Nobody is advocating GMO crops.'
Manassero says the Ag Advisory Committee will schedule a presentation from a UC Davis professor about the benefits of genetic engineering. The committee will then recommend a course of action to county supervisors. But it’s clear the committee chairman doesn’t think a ban is necessary.
'Why pass an ordinance that would close a potential scientific and high-tech solution to a problem that we don’t know about yet?' Manassero asks.
Manassero dismisses the concerns of GMO opponents. Since vegetables are harvested when they are immature, he says they don’t pollinate. Therefore, Manassero says, the crops wouldn’t cross-pollinate. As for organic farmers losing business, Manassero calls it a 'scare tactic that is being used to push the GMO ordinance in Monterey County.'
If Monterey County sides with GE crops, Sancen says it could hurt the county’s farming reputation. Sancen points to the drawbacks of GE crops, including increased food allergies, damage to beneficial insects and the creation of 'superweeds.' 'It’s not just for small farmers,' he says. 'It’s for the whole ag industry.'
Indeed, fruit and vegetable crops are one of the last stands in an ag industry increasingly dominated by GE crops. Since their introduction in 1996 GE crops have ballooned to make up more than 80 percent of soybean production and more than 60 percent of cotton acreage. Sancen calls on the county to rein in GMOs before they spread locally. 'We have to regulate this,' he says.
4.'Hej da GMO!' is a network for GMO Free Sweden!
So far there are no officially declared GMO free regions in Sweden, so we started a new portal on the net for people all over Sweden to meet and exchange information and encourage local communities to join the European Network for GMO-free regions.
The name of the network 'Hejda GMO' means 'Goodbye GMOs' and the web address 'hejdagmo' means 'Stop GMOs'. Organic farmers, biodynamic farmers, small scale family farmers, the Slow Food movement, cooks, food writers, consumers and environmental activists are all involved.
Any questions? Please use the form below.
Administrator (Akiko Frid)