GENET archive


REGULATION / PLANTS: New statute protects the DNA of wild rice inMinnesota (USA)

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  New statute protects the DNA of wild rice
SOURCE: Star Tribune, USA
AUTHOR: The Associated Press
DATE:   29.05.2007

read more at:

H.F. No. 1663
Short Description: Wild rice; genetically-engineered organisms
regulation provisions modified, and study required.
H.F. No. 1662
Short Description: Wild rice management plan required.
SF No. 2103
A bill for an act relating to environment; modifying provisions for
regulating genetically engineered organisms; requiring a wild rice
study;amending Minnesota Statutes 
SF2096 [final text on pp 34; 110-111; 130-131]

New statute protects the DNA of wild rice

The DNA of Minnesota wild rice gets special protection under a new state
law adopted this year with the backing of Indian tribes.

Genetic modifications to wild rice will be watched more closely, with
environmental impact statements required and permits controlled by the
Minnesota Environmental Quality Board. The board is also required to
keep tabs on genetic modifications to wild rice throughout the country
and notify wild rice farmers, Indian tribes and legislators if permits
for genetically altered wild rice are issued in any state.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Natural Resources will study the
status of natural wild rice and potential threats. Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-
Bemidji, said it's the first time a state has voted to protect a native
crop or species from genetic changes.

"Wild rice is not only historically and economically important for all
Minnesotans, it's sacred to the Ojibwe people," Moe said. "It's both
important food for us and prime fish and duck habitat. We need to study
the declining wild rice population and protect against any genetic
damage to native wild rice."

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                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Guest Columnist - Minnesota's wild rice now has protection
SOURCE: Detroit Lakes Tribune, USA
AUTHOR: Winona LaDuke
DATE:   23.05.2007

Guest Columnist - Minnesota's wild rice now has protection

After a three year battle at the Legislature and a long set of meetings
with the University of Minnesota, Manoomin, or wild rice, finally
received protection, and is, once again recognized, as not only the most
sacred food of the Anishinaabe or Ojibwe peoples, but also the cherished
state grain.

On May 8, 2007, Governor Pawlenty approved the Omnibus Environment and
Natural Finance Bill (H 2410/S 2096): Included in this bill was
protection for wild rice. Andrea Hanks, the Wild Rice Campaign
coordinator for the White Earth Land Recovery Project expressed great
relief that the bill had passed, thanking all of those who supported it,
"Protection for Wild Rice has been a long time coming for Anishinaabeg
communities, many people on all levels contributed to moving this
legislation, the tribes of Minnesota, tribal leaders, allied
organizations, citizens and legislators, I'm thankful for the help and
support that was given."

Spurred initially by the work at the University of Minnesota to map the
DNA sequence of wild rice, the Anishinaabeg became concerned about
possible genetic modification of wild rice in 2002. Anishinaabeg
concerns were heightened when scientists revealed that ancient varieties
of corn, deep in Mexico, had been contaminated by genetically engineered
seed varieties hundreds of miles away.

The White Earth Land Recovery Project, joining with all members of the
Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and in 2005, the Red Lake Tribal Council
(which grows paddy rice, but opposes genetic engineering), lobbied the
University of Minnesota to forgo it's right to genetically engineer wild
rice. That controversy has been ongoing, since the University of
Minnesota has the "test plots" which would be the most likely site for
this type of seed modification. The University opposed the Ojibwe
proposals as a limitation to "academic freedom," frustrating much of the
Ojibwe leadership and the wild rice harvesters. White Earth Tribal
Chairwoman Erma Vizenor also requested a moratorium on genetic
engineering at the University of Minnesota, underscoring the value of
wild rice to the White Earth reservation, one of the largest producing tribes.

Unable to secure an agreement with the University, legislation was
introduced at the Minnesota Legislature to protect wild rice and secure
a moratorium on genetic engineering. The initial legislation's intent
would have been a 10 year moratorium prohibiting any genetic engineering
of wild rice, but over the years this was reduced to a two-year ban. At
the start of the 2007 legislative session, Rep. Frank Moe (DFL-Bemidji)
rewrote the bill. Subsequently, HF 1662 and HF1663 combined to become SF
2103 (Sen. Satveer Chaudhary).

Testifying this spring, George Goggleye Jr., chairman of the Leech Lake
tribal government, urged, "the committee to honor the first people of
this state by letting this pass."

"Wild rice is integrated into our lives," added Bois Forte Tribal
Chairman Kevin Leecy in his testimony. Leecy is also chair of the Indian
Affairs Legislative Council. "History has shown that it is hard to
contain these things in test plots," Leecy explained, noting, "supposed
improvements in white rice led to (genetic contamination) which cost the
white rice industry $l00 million in the southern U.S."

In turn, the bill was opposed by biotech lobbyists Thomas Kelliher and
Phil Griffin, arguing that the state's soybean and corn crops would be
impacted by requiring an environmental impact statement and other
precautions for wild rice, recognizing that the majority of these fields
are genetically engineered. The University of Minnesota did not oppose
the legislation, and a number of senators (Steve Dille, R- Dassel) and
others suggested that they would prefer to just make the use of
genetically modified wild rice seed illegal.

The final bill was a merger of several efforts: HF 1662 asked to
implement a study of the environmental threats to natural wild rice
stands including development pressure, water levels, pollution, invasive
species, and genetic strains. The study would have to include
recommendations for the state to act to increase natural stands of wild
and future protection. HF 1663 sought to amend a state statute to
require that an environmental impact statement be conducted in advance
of open-air tests of GE wild rice and put the matter under the authority
of the Environmental Quality Board. The Environmental Quality Board
would also be required to notify the state's wild rice industry, the
Legislature and federally recognized tribes within Minnesota if a permit
to release genetically engineered wild rice was issued anywhere in the
United States.

These bills were amended and combined into one bill, HF 1663 and SF
2103, and included in Omnibus Bill S2096 H2410.

"The decision to drop the two-year moratorium and go with the revised
legislation was a gamble, but both bills combined protect wild rice,"
Allen Richardson, a WELRP intern with the Organizing Apprenticeship
Project explained, after his second year of working on the legislation.
Richardson is hopeful, noting, "This bill establishes a precedent to
protect wild rice. I hope it encourages other states, such as Wisconsin,
to consider seeking legislation to protect wild rice."

The next steps for wild rice are to convene a committee to begin
studying the span of threats to wild rice, including lake shore
development, habitat decline and genetic engineering. This report is due
back in 2008.

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