Way to go, Maine!
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 Contact:
Kai George, Montville resident 207-589-4381; Jen King, Skyview Family Farm, 207-557-0547.
Rob Fish, Food for Maine’s Future, 207-692-2571 firstname.lastname@example.org
Logan Perkins, Protect Maine Farmers, 207-615-5158, email@example.com