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North Dakota Petition Drive May Put Controversial GE Wheat Issue on the Ballot

GMO ballot measure approved
Associated Press, April 16, 2004

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A ballot measure that would restrict biotech wheat
plantings in North Dakota is ready for circulation, Secretary of State Al
Jaeger said.

Supporters of the initiative must gather petition signatures from at least
12,844 North Dakota voters to put the measure to a statewide vote. They have
a year to do so. To qualify for the November ballot, petitions must be
turned in by Aug. 4.

Karl Limvere, a Medina pastor and rural activist who is chairman of the
initiative's sponsoring committee, said the goal of the measure's backers is
"to get it on the ballot as quickly as we can.''

"Whether we are there for the November ballot is another kind of question,''
Limvere said Thursday. "It will depend on how well it's received, our
volunteer force, all of those kinds of things have to factor in. I don't
want to get into the business of trying to predict when things will

The measure would give North Dakota's agriculture commissioner authority to
decide whether farmers could plant genetically modified wheat. The
commissioner would have to appoint a six-member review panel to study the
question, and hold at least one public hearing.

Backers of the proposal say North Dakota's export markets for hard red
spring wheat and durum would be slammed by the introduction of biotech wheat
here, because customers in Japan and Europe have said they do not want it.

Monsanto Co., which is based in St. Louis, is developing a hard red spring
wheat variety than is genetically modified to withstand applications of the
company's Roundup weed-killer.

Jaeger and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem review the formatting of
initiative petitions before they may be circulated. They also draft an
explanation of what the measure would do, which is called the ballot title.

The review was completed Thursday. It does not change the text of the
measure, Jaeger said.

"We have to accept whatever comes in, exactly the way it comes in. We cannot
change that at all,'' Jaeger said. "The only thing that we deal with is the
ballot title ... and also we address the format. That's the limit of what we
can do.''