Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Proponents of labelling for genetically engineered foods advance warrant articles

Proponents of Town Meeting warrant articles in Williams and Sandisfield
which urge the Massachusetts Legislature to require disclosure labelling
of genetically engineered foods have released a statement describing their

The statement consists of the following email:

Date: Tue, 2 May 2006 14:09:34 -0400
From: S A Wyrrick < swyrrick@pobox.com >
Subject: Press release for Williamstown Town Meeting GE Resolutions

Sandisfield and Williamstown to Discuss Genetic Engineering at May Town Meetings

Citizens in the towns of Sandisfield and Williamstown have put articles on the
warrant calling for new laws on agricultural genetic engineering (GE). "GMOs
have come to dominate US agriculture very quickly with little debate. We hope
that Williamstown will add its voice to a call to slow down and give people the
basic information they need to make their own choices, and to stop the
uncontrolled and unwise experimentation with our land and with our food," said
Sharon Wyrrick, an organic gardener and Wild Oats food co-op member who helped
put the articles on the warrant in Williamstown.

Lauren Paul who helped put the article on the warrant of the Sandisfield Town
Meeting said, "Hopefully, this resolution will bring this issue to people's
awareness. A lot of people still don't know about the issues involved with GE."

Since 2002, over one hundred towns in New England have passed resolutions
calling for major regulatory changes for the biotechnology industry, twelve of
which are in Massachusetts. This year, 9 new towns in Massachusetts have put
similar resolutions on their town meeting warrants. Organic gardener, Linda
Avis Scott, who is bringing forward a similar resolution in Shutesbury, said
"The resolution we put on the warrant in Shutesbury really taps into my
fundamental belief of what town meeting is about -- the true democracy that
allows us to express ourselves freely and to be heard."

The resolutions in both Sandisfield and Williamstown call for legislators to
enact mandatory labeling of GE food. Since 1992, the FDA has approved nearly
every new GE crop for which biotechnology companies have made a request, but
critics point out the lack independent, long-term testing. "I'm a chemist and I
know these companies have not done the research we need on the long term
effects of GE crops on the environment like cross pollination as well as the
effects on human health," said Roberta Myers who has grown organically for 30
years with her husband, Ron, at Cold Spring Farm in Sandisfield.

Ben Grosscup, who petitioned to put similar articles on the Amherst Warrant
added, "The Food and Drug Administration and each of the relevant federal
agencies have simply refused to regulate this technology. Town meeting is an
important place in which regular citizens can demand real accountability."

In Williamstown, a second article calls on legislators to "sponsor and support
legislation that would enact a moratorium on the further growing of GE crops
until there is credible and independent scientific evidence that these products
are not harmful to our health, the environment, and the survival of family
farms." In Sandisfield, a second part of the resolution resolves that the town,
"Encourage a local moratorium on growing genetically engineered crops until
there is credible and scientific evidence that these products are not harmful
to our health or our environment."

Petitioners say that a moratorium is the only way to fully address the threats
posed by genetically engineering in agriculture. Monsanto, which is the largest
biotechnology company, patents novel gene sequences in their GE crops, which
routinely contaminate non-GE crops through wind pollination and seed spillage
from trucks. John Hoffman, who runs an organic CSA (Community Supported
Agriculture) and filed similar articles in Charlemont said, "This issue affects
me directly because of the possible contamination of my corn crop. We know that
with wind pollinated crops like corn, GE pollen will cross with non-GE
varieties. For me, that means that my organically grown crop is no longer

The corporate patent rights that come with these novel gene sequences pose
liability threats that leave many farmers concerned. The Center for Food Safety
reports that, Monsanto has an an annual budget of $10 million, with which it
employs a staff of 75 lawyers devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting
farmers for patent infringement.

So far, Monsanto has filed 90 lawsuits against U.S. farmers, and the recorded
judgments it has been awarded have totaled over $15 million. But many farmers
settle with the company out-of-court, accepting court gag orders and leaving
scant information about their cases. Gloria Meluleni, an organic farmer who
runs Coyote Hill Farm and brought forth resolutions on GE to the Bernardston
Town Meeting said, "It is so unjust and ridiculous that Monsanto can sue people
when its GE pollen crosses over to someone else's crop."

These resolutions are coming on the heels of the recent passage of an
unprecedented farmer liability protection bill in the Vermont House of
Representatives. The bill passed the house on April 25 by 77-63 after long
debate in conference committee between the Vermont Senate and House. It still
faces possible veto by the governor. The Vermont bill, which has been
developing for years, was influenced by the resolutions that 85 towns in
Vermont have passed since 2000 calling for changes in policy on genetic

The Sandisfield Town Meeting is on May 13, and the Williamstown Town Meeting
takes place on May 16.

For Immediate Release: Tuesday May 2, 2006.
- Ron & Roberta Myers (413) 269-4928 Sandisfield
- Sharon Wyrrick (413) 458-0197 Williamstown
- Ben Grosscup, cell: (413) 658-5374 Amherst


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