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E-M:/ SB 777 Urgent action needed

From Claire O'Leary
To All Concerned about Michigan Farming, Food security and safety, Environmentalists, Native plant preservationists including forests, and those dedicated to the Preservation of Local Control:

A new bill, SB 777, has been introduced to the Michigan Senate and is being discussed by the Senate Agricultural, Forestry, and Tourism Committee (see attached)
This bill is an attempt to change the Michigan seed law of 1965 and 1988 "to preempt ordinances prohibiting or regulating certain activities with respect to seeds" and to add a new section that will prevent local units of government (cities, townships, municipalities, counties, etc.) from adopting, maintaining, or enforcing "an ordinance that prohibits or regulates the labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, use, or planting of agricultural, vegetable, flower, or forest tree seeds."

What this means if passed: Citizens and local governments in Michigan will no longer be able to ban the use of, sale of, transportation of, etc. seeds that have the potential to expose people, farmers, and the environment to unreasonable risks.

This is just one of several State level bills that have been introduced across the country to counteract the success of some counties and municipalities in other states that have passed local ordinances banning the use, sale, etc. of genetically engineered seeds. The only thing that stops these bills is a large public outcry.

Potential Unintended Effects:

Unique local concerns might include
--Public health: the allergenicity and toxicity effects of certain GE crop pollen is already suspected of causing illness
--Organic farming: seed drift and pollen drift can directly contaminate organic farms with the subsequent loss of certification as well as organic markets
--Conventional farming: Many farmers have already been sued or threatened into silence by the Agri-Biotech firms like Monsanto due to suspected crop contamination.? Given the way federal laws are being interpreted in the courts, there is no protection for farmers against these lawsuits.
--Unique natural or cultural resources may be compromised through the weediness of some invasive organisms
--potential weediness of GE grasses and certain crops could prove to become a widespread?nuisance since they are engineered to overcome natural obstacles and are creating pest and chemical resistances
--GE Trees are being introduced and have the potential for silencing forests and creating?anomalies that harm other creatures and other trees

The bill offers no protection to preserve local zoning ordinances and leaves many at risk including:
--Hospitals and Convalescent Centers
--Organic and Conventional Farms

Additionally, there is no protection from potential law suits for the property owned or controlled by local governments (parks, play fields, roadsides, county-controlled agricultural lands, etc.) should GE crops become uncontrollable weeds.

When the Federal government attempts to impose uniformity on individual State laws, especially in the area of food regulation, States have a right and a duty to object. We need the same degree of respect for local control from our State legislature.

Please Call or Write to your State senator.  Mention the bill by its designation: SB 777 The bill is sponsored by the Committee Chair, Sen. Van Woerkom

If you have the time, please consider also writing to your newspaper.

Claire O'Leary
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Committee
Healthy Traditions Network

Some actions to take:
1) outline your concerns and the consequences of this bill in a one to two
page letter (if possible on your association letterhead) as dispassionately
as possible avoiding terms (however they might apply here) like
"anti-democratic." Try to give examples of common-sense/main
stream/programs/consumer preferences/that this bill would ban or prevent.

Be polite and as positive as possible ("you may be unaware of the unintended
consequences of this bill"...)

Keep your comments focused on the bill (for instance, too much background on the value of
organics etc will not be effective).
Stress that any bill which limits what local communities - which include the
farmers who live and grow there - can decide to do in their own communities
is a very serious step and should only be taken after very careful
consideration. It is comparable to the value we place on State Rule over Federal preemption.

Fax to the Committee Chair and ask that he distribute copies to members of
the Senate Ag Committee. Cc your own state senator and follow up with a call
to his or her staff asking that they look into this issue as well.

CHAIR AND THEIR SENATOR WITH CONCERNS. You may want to include in your
contacts a copy of your letter which they could put into their own words.

3. Get as MANY FARMERS AS POSSIBLE to email or call or fax a letter to the
chair with a request that their message be copied to all committee members.
Stress that however well-intended, this will have an anti-farmer impact.

4. It is especially important that individuals who live in the districts of
the committee members speak out. See list below.

5. If you have done all this and still have energy and time to spare,
send a letter to the editor of your paper (&/or a Muskegon paper) on why
this bill is not good for Michigan.

Members, Senate Agriculture, Forestry, & Tourism committee

Chair, Sen. Gerald VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores)
Republican of District 34
Office Phone: (517) 373-1635?
FAX: (517) 373-3300?
Office Location: 420 Farnum Building

Vice Chair, Sen. Judson Gilbert II (R-Algonac)
Judson Gilbert II
Republican of District 25
Office Phone: (517) 373-7708
Office Location: 705 Farnum Building

Sen. Ron Jelinek,(R-Three Oaks)
Republican of District 21
Office Phone: (517) 373-6960
Office Location: 405 Farnum Building

Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor) Minority Vice Chair
Democrat of District 18
Office Phone: (517) 373-2406
Office Location: 510 Farnum Building

Sen. Samuel "Buzz" Thomas (D-Detroit)
Democrat of District 4
Office Phone: (517) 373-7918
Office Location: 610 Farnum Building