March 28, 2006
MONTVILLE, Maine - Residents have voted to include a ban of genetically engineered seeds in the town's land use ordinances.
At their annual town meeting on Saturday, residents gave overwhelming approval to a resolution that declared that the town would commit to banning genetically modified organisms, or GMO's, and develop land-use ordinances to support the policy. The policy will be included in the town's comprehensive plan.
It is thought to be the first time that a Maine town has agreed to ban GMO's in its land use ordinances. Voters in Brooklin last year passed a resolution to voluntarily declare the town a GMO-free zone.
Kai George, a supporter of the Montville resolution, called the vote a "landmark decision for Maine."
Genetically modified seeds are planted on about 6,100 acres of Maine's 1.25 million acres of farm land, she said.
Genetic technology has been widely used by major seed companies to promote insect resistance or herbicide tolerance in crops.
Opponents fear that pollen from genetically altered plants -- whose DNA is reconfigured to make the plants resistant to insects and weed-killing chemicals -- will contaminate nearby organic farms or traditional farms that don't want to use the altered seeds.
Many consumers also fear there isn't enough information available on the long-range consequences of eating genetically modified foods.
Biotechnology companies have countered that the negative effects are nonexistent, noting that not a single stomach ache has been reported since the Food and Drug Administration first approved genetically engineered crops for human consumption a dozen years ago.
Moreover, they say that crops genetically engineered to resist weeds and bugs enable farmers to decrease pesticide use.
European consumers are widely entrenched in their aversion to genetically modified food and pockets of similar resistance have popped up in the United States.
In California, voters in at least four counties have voted to ban biotech plants in their counties. But voters in four other California counties have rejected such proposals.