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6-Regulation: Brooklin votes to become Maine's (USA) first GMO-free zone



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TITLE:  Brooklin Votes to Become Maine's First GMO-Free Zone
SOURCE: GE Free Maine, USA
DATE:   3 Apr 2005

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Brooklin Votes to Become Maine's First GMO-Free Zone
Voters Cite Importance of Preventing Contamination and Protecting the
Environment As Primary Concerns.

BROOKLIN, MAINE - Brooklin voters approved an article on the town meeting
warrant declaring Brooklin a Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)-Free
Zone. The vote in Brooklin is the 98th resolution opposing genetic
engineering to be passed in New England and the first to declare a
voluntary moratorium on the planting of GMOs. The Brooklin vote was also
the first such vote of any kind on the GMO issue by a municipality in
Maine. The article was developed by a handful of local residents who
later sought assistance from the six-month old farmer advocacy group GE
Free Maine (<http://www.gefreemaine.org>).

According to Brooklin resident Marilyn Anderson, "Simply stated, this
article is about declaring the importance of preserving the environment,
human health and food by resisting the irreversible GMO contamination of
Brooklin. This approved article is not an ordinance and does not restrict
businesses from selling, serving or marketing GMO products, nor does it
restrict laboratory research." Anderson and several other Brooklin
residents circulated the petition that led to the item being included on
the town's warrant.

The area in and around Brooklin has an increasing number of conventional
and organic farmers and gardeners and fishermen, providing the community
with healthy food uncontaminated by GMOs. The residents voted to
voluntarily preserve the lands, waters and livelihoods of these
businesses, which are a great asset to their community, and which would
be threatened by the raising of GMOs.

The vote was brought to the Brooklin town meeting on April 2 by residents
concerned about the legal and economic ramifications if genetically
modified crops contaminate local organic or conventional farms, as well
as the impact GMO crops have on the environment. "Once introduced into
the environment, these invasive life forms can never be recalled," said
Anderson. "The purpose of the article was to ask Brooklin residents to
speak out about the importance of safeguarding our town lands and waters
by not cultivating genetically modified organisms - GMO plants, trees,
fish and animals - in Brooklin."

GE Free Maine is working with residents in municipalities around the
state to bring the question of how to best deal with genetically modified
crops to town meetings. According to Meg Gilmartin, cofounder of GE Free
Maine, "Towns have a responsibility to protect the rights of farmers and
landowners who choose not to grow [GE crops] on their land. Town meeting
is the purest of our democratic institutions, a place where the issue can
be decided face-to-face by local residents without the interference of
paid lobbyists."

GE Free Maine stayed away from the Brooklin Town Meeting at the request
of local residents believing it important that local residents discuss
the issue on their own and make a decision on whether they wished
Brooklin to become a GMO-Free Zone. The vote did attract outside
opponents of the measure. Doug Johnson, a professional lobbyist for the
biotech industry and a partner in biotechnology public relations firm
GreenTree Communication, attended the meeting and sought to speak. Local
residents did not take kindly to this outside interference. Recently-
arrived Brooklin resident John Bradford, a former Republican legislator
from Massachusetts moved that Johnson be given the floor, but the Town
voted down the motion. Several voters stated that, "We are educated and
intelligent people -- we don't need slick, highly paid corporate lobbyists
coming in here trying to tell us what to do."

According to Anderson, "The vote Saturday was just a first step for the
State. We are confident that Brooklin will be the first of many towns in
Maine to take up this issue, educate themselves on the issue, and take
action to help farmers and other landowners, as well as the natural
environment, avoid irreversible damage by GMO contamination."

Gilmartin agrees. "GE Free Maine applauds the residents of Brooklin for
banding together, starting a dialogue within their community, and
considering what actions to take to protect the right of their fellow
citizens, farmers and land owners to remain free from genetic
contamination. This action will encourage communities around the state to
start similar dialogues, educate themselves and take appropriate steps to
protect their communities from the contamination and lawsuits that result
from these unnatural and unpredictable crops."

A genetically modified organism is a plant, animal or microorganism whose
genetic code has been altered by subtracting or adding genes (either from
the same, or a different species) in order to give it characteristics
that do not occur in nature. Outside of the United States, Canada,
Argentina and South Africa, most countries in the world have rejected or
placed restrictions on these crops.

The approved article read "Shall the town vote to voluntarily protect its
agriculture and marine economies, environment and private property from
irreversible Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) contamination by
declaring Brooklin a GMO-free zone?"

The Brooklin response: YES!

For More Information contact Rob or Meg and 207-244-0908 or via email
info@gefreemaine.org or Marilyn Anderson 207-359-4617.




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