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MICH-ORGANIC  April 2006



a complete update of SB 777 Contact Granholm NOW


Vicki Morrone <[log in to unmask]>


Vicki Morrone <[log in to unmask]>


Fri, 28 Apr 2006 11:13:32 -0400





text/plain (373 lines)

Contact Granholm now to voice your opinion. She can veto the bill:
the contact information for the Governor's office was not included in my email. here it is:,1607,7-168-21995---,00.html

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm
        P.O. Box 30013
        Lansing, Michigan 48909
        PHONE: (517) 373-3400
        PHONE: (517) 335-7858 - Constituent Services
        FAX:(517) 335-6863
Please ask her to veto the bill
Please ask her to accept my request for a meeting to speak with her on the issues that this legislation brings.
Please ask her to respect your choice as a food consumer, tax prayer, voter to allow you to be a part of the local organic food movement.
Please ask her to continue the good work the state is doing in support of Michigan's Organic Community (certification fee reimbursement, Select Michigan, Project Fresh & Senior Fresh)
Please ask her to support the local organic community, farmers & consumers.
Last week we sent you an email regarding our opposition to SB 777. We went to Lansing to give testimony to the House Ag Committee. Thank you to the members that came out to show support and voice their opinion. Thank you to all the members that called, sent email, shared this information with others. This is a grassroots effort here and I really want you to know that if it wasn't for people like you we wouldn't have the desire to call for action.
I am disappointed to report our efforts were unsuccessful. The House Ag Committee (especially chair Neil Nitz) was unfair in his questioning, upon being challenged with real issues decided to let the farm bureau and other special interest groups have the spotlight.
The entire process was very orchestrated, they came in with their minds made up, we didn't sway ONE vote. Was I surprised. Hell yes I was....and mad. I think that's a good thing. I will NEVER be comfortable with anyone taking away our food choice.
Please know that I have requested a meeting with the Governor. I put my request in writing and her office should receive it today.
I am also submitting a letter to the editor to the Free Press, just trying to bring awareness and ask more food conscious people to contact the Governor. It's the last thing we can do to stop this train wreck.
THANKS AGAIN, for all your support. I am preparing a farm up date. SO much going on, when we cold mornings we continue to plant cold hardy crops (lettuce, onions, cabbage, broccoli) the garlic & shallots are up and growing and looking GREAT! The hoophouses are full with squash, tomatoes, peppers, amazing that I have been able to have tomatoes in the ground growing and it would normally be 3 more weeks before even thinking about planting tomatoes in the ground! This means earlier tomatoes for you! Earlier lots of stuff :)
(I'm getting new photos on the website now-we have a lot to show you things are going really good this Spring so far, planting more asparagus, raspberries, strawberries -all for your future enjoyment)
Winter share members from 2005 please don't think I have forgotten about you. I would predict I will start up those last 3 remaining weeks I owe you within the next 2 weeks. The one question will be what locations we will deliver those shares to (Pam's house?) or should we switch to using the farmers market on Saturday.. (we'll be at Royal Oak & Rochester with organic tomatoes plants)-this would save the farm a trip if the 60 members agree to do this) With the gas prices right now I have to admit I'm thinking about these things. I will be in direct contact with the 05 winter share members very soon :)
If you are an 05 csa member and you have not renewed for 2006 please note that we have less remaining memberships then the # of members that have not renewed from last season. We do not automatically renew members, so it's important if you plan on participating this season you contact us immediately to make sure you'll have a spot for the 06 season. You can sign up directly through our new website or call the farm 810 387 4365 to sign up over the phone. 
Ok, enough from me. Here is the latest update from Claire O'Leary with instructions to contact the Governor.
Your Organic Farmers (busy one's at that!)
Danny & Michelle Lutz
Maple Creek Farm
810 387 4365

Hi Everyone,

Here is an update and recap of the battle against SB 777, the seed preemption bill, which passed in the Michigan Senate on March 30th and in the Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 25th.

Governor Granholm still has the option to veto SB 777.  Concerned citizens should call her office immediately and request that she do so and that she establish a study commission in Michigan to foster the education of our political representatives and our citizens about the hopes and promises of agricultural biotechnology as well as the risks and hazards.  Additionally, a small representative group of those of us who oppose this bill would like to meet with Governor Granholm to help her to understand the issues from our point-of-view.  We don't know that our request will be granted.

As many of you know, the bill was introduced by Senator VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores) on Oct 25, 2005.  At that time, the bill was expected to pass through the legislature with no opposition.  Apparently, folks in Lansing didn't know that there are so many of us in Michigan who feel strongly that agricultural biotechnology is fraught with unreasonable hazards and risks for the health and well-being of our state and its citizens.

Over the next couple of months, the Senate Agriculture Committee sporadically heard testimony from both sides of the issue.  Additionally, Kate Madigan, Gayle Miller and myself spent hours talking with legislators in their offices and in the lobbies of both chambers.  Many of the key people were given science-based reports, books, DVDs and CDs to try to help them come up to speed on the full ramifications of the issue before them.  

Given the background politics of this bill, it was an uphill battle all the way.  It was obvious that Michigan Agribusiness Association (a lobbying group representing industry) and the Michigan Farm Bureau (which doesn't represent farmers fairly) were running the political show.  Michigan State University was represented by some scientists who claimed neutrality but proceeded to give misleading testimony, lending their scientific credentials to the efforts to get the bill passed.  It is assumed that the university sanctioned their testimony since they didn't say that they were speaking as individuals apart from MSU.  The amount of misinformation and distortions in this testimony was disheartening to those of us who know better.

The Michigan Farmers Union, MOFFA, Michigan Environmental Council, Sierra Club, Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Healthy Traditions Network, Clean Water Action, MSU Student Organic Farm and many other organizations voiced their concerns and opposition.  Many of the statewide Organic Farmers attended hearings in both chambers to explain the risks that biotech seeds are bringing to their farm operations.  The opposition was aided by the Center for Food Safety, Organic Consumers Association and the Union of Concerned Scientists.  The CFS even lent us their senior scientist, Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman who flew in from Washington, DC to give testimony and talk with legislators.  Many legislators received over 500 phone calls and emails of opposition to SB 777.

Several legislators, especially those that serve the public on the Ag Committees in both the Senate and the House, heard for the first time that the FDA does not assure the safety of genetically engineered foods.  Instead, they review the mostly voluntary data and testing submitted to them by the biotech developers.  No long-term or short-term feeding studies are required to determine safety.  No environmental impact studies are required.  No mandatory tests are required for most submissions for deregulation.  If government regulators ask for more data, the companies are under no obligation to comply.  And once the crop is deregulated, the federal government does not conduct further oversight despite the known scientific fact that in many cases, the genetic manipulation creates an organism with an unstable genetic code that could easily change in subsequent generations and under environmental stresses causing allergens and toxins to emerge.

Legislators didn't know that there have been at least 750 field tests of experimental crops in Michigan, including six sites for crops carrying traits for prescription drugs or industrial materials.  The whereabouts of these crops is protected by "confidential business information," protocols that supersede those of the public interest.  Any number of those crops, depending on the species' fertilization process, proximity, and natural conditions, could have already out-crossed with same species crops or wild relatives in neighboring fields.

Legislators didn't know that farmers are being sued by Monsanto Corporation for "intellectual property right infringement" when they are either caught or suspected of having Monsanto's genetically engineered varieties mixed in with their own.  They learned that it doesn't matter how those plants came to be growing on the farmer's land, be it through cross pollination via the wind, bees, birds, etc or seed drift through various natural and mechanical means, the farmer is still legally liable to pay Monsanto or the another seed developer.

Legislators didn't know that genetic contamination between GMO crops and non-GMO crops of the same species is likely over years of sharing the same wind, water and other environmental conditions.  They were told that the integrity of non-GMO and organic farming in Michigan is at risk because of the presence of biotech crops in neighboring fields.  We illustrated for them the economic value of protecting organic crops from contamination by comparing what conventional corn sold for on the open market last year ($1.50/bu) versus organically grown corn sold to niche markets ($6-$9/bu depending on the variety).  We told them that organic farms risk losing their certification that allows them to sell to niche markets if they become contaminated.

Michigan has no liability laws in place to protect farmers and citizens or public lands from genetic contamination or crop failure in genetically engineered varieties.  The federal government has failed thus far to address this issue either.  There is also an assumption by the biotech industry that the federal regulatory standards protect them from liability issues. 

What the majority of our state legislators in both the Senate and House chose to ignore is that SB 777, Michigan's seed preemption bill, does not respond to any problem in Michigan concerning local regulations of seeds.  There is currently no conflict between local governments and the use of seeds.  Agricultural biotechnology is being carefully and vigorously promoted in Michigan at the expense of truthful disclosure of many known scientific risks and hazards.  SB 777 is inherently unfair in that it favors the interests of biotech seed developers over the financial risks to organic farmers and conventional farmers who do not want to grow GMO crops and do not want genetic contamination.  SB 777 ignores the public health risks posed by some GMO varieties that produce wind-born pollen.  

SB 777 is a bill designed to give biotech seed developers unfettered access to Michigan land at the expense of the right of local people to be able to decide the levels of health and economic risks they are willing to accept.  
Since the issue of agricultural biotechnology is now on the table, a reasonable and commonsensical alternative to SB 777 would be to establish a study commission so that public discourse can be informed by a science-based understanding and a full disclosure of the hazards and risks that are involved with this application of a new technology.  Our current Michigan legislature was asked to vote on a subject they do not yet understand and one on which the public is dangerously under-informed.  

But each of the Senators and Representatives were also given the option to vote for a substitute bill to SB 777 that would have created a roundtable study commission on the issues surrounding agricultural biotechnology.  Many thanks to Senator Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor) and Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) for presenting the substitute in each of the chambers.  They each delivered their comments and protest with a strong understanding of the issues.  (see below to see how your legislators voted on the study bill option, SB 777 and to read Sen. Brater's comments) They failed to gain sufficient votes in either chamber.  Representative government requires a higher standard of decision-making  than this to safeguard the health, safety and well-being of our state.

In this situation, I believe that that our local governments should retain their authority to act on behalf of local concerns.  In some cases, they might be considered "first responders" to public health hazards such as allergenic or toxic pollen.  In others, they may be able to help protect non-GMO growers from genetic contamination.  If nothing else, citizens deserve the right to be able to knowingly accept or reject biotechnology in their food or fields in this one way that still exists in Michigan.

In all other avenues in regards to agricultural biotechnology, the public has been left in the dark and had their democratic rights abused and discarded as a hinderance to commerce for the biotechnology seed developers.  Most people don't even know that they are already consuming GMOs in their foods (70% of processed foods).  How is that fair?  How does that represent all that we say we value about living in a democracy?  After all, eating Michigan grown food and breathing the pollen-laden air are very intimate acts.  We take this stuff into our bodies!  We should retain the right to protect ourselves and out communities from unreasonable risks.

Call Governor Granholm today and ask her to veto SB 777 and establish a roundtable study commission on agricultural biotechnology.

You can read the full text of the bill and the analysis at

For food democracy,
Claire (O'Leary) Maitre
Sierra Club National Genetic Engineering Committee, volunteer
MOFFA, volunteer

This is taken from the Senate Journal, found at

 Senate Bill No.777, entitled

A bill to amend 1965 PA 329, entitled "Michigan seed law," (MCL 286.701 to 286.716) by amending the title, as amended by 1988 PA 455, and by adding section 14; and to repeal acts and parts of acts.

The question being on the passage of the bill,

Senator Brater offered the following substitute:

Substitute (S-4).

The substitute was not adopted, a majority of the members serving not voting therefor.

Senator Schauer requested the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered, 1/5 of the members present voting therefor.

The substitute was not adopted, a majority of the members serving not voting therefor, as follows:

Roll Call No.221 Yeas--16

Barcia Clark-Coleman Leland Schauer

Basham Clarke Olshove Scott

Brater Emerson Patterson Switalski

Cherry Jacobs Prusi Thomas


Allen Cropsey Hammerstrom McManus

Birkholz Garcia Hardiman Sanborn

Bishop George Jelinek Sikkema

Brown Gilbert Johnson Stamas

Cassis Goschka Kuipers Van Woerkom


Toy Whitmer

Not Voting--0

In The Chair: President

The question being on the passage of the bill,

The bill was passed, a majority of the members serving voting therefor, as follows:

Roll Call No.222 Yeas--26

Allen Garcia Johnson Sanborn

Barcia George Kuipers Schauer

Birkholz Gilbert McManus Sikkema

Bishop Goschka Olshove Stamas

Brown Hammerstrom Patterson Switalski

Cassis Hardiman Prusi Van Woerkom

Cropsey Jelinek


Basham Clark-Coleman Jacobs Scott

Brater Clarke Leland Thomas

Cherry Emerson


Toy Whitmer

Not Voting--0

In The Chair: President

The Senate agreed to the title of the bill.


Senator Brater, under her constitutional right of protest (Art. 4, Sec. 18), protested against the passage of Senate Bill No.777 and moved that the statements she made during the discussion of the bill be printed as her reasons for voting "no."

The motion prevailed.

Senator Brater's first statement is as follows:

I am offering a substitute because I believe that bringing Senate Bill No.777 out of committee to the floor has been premature. The Senate agriculture committee did hold four hearings on this bill over the past four months, and I appreciate the chair taking this much time to study the bill. I know it's unusual in Senate time to give it that much thought, but I think that the reason that we took so much time on it in committee is because of the uncertainty surrounding the effects that this bill may have as public policy for the citizens of the state of Michigan and the well-being of the people and the environment and agriculture in the state of Michigan.

There are still too many unanswered questions about the safety of genetically-engineered (GE) seeds and what the long-term impacts of these seeds are on human, animal and plant health. That is why the substitute I am offering today will put a hold on the original intent of the bill, to prevent local governments from prohibiting the use of certain seeds, particularly GE seeds. Instead, my substitute would create a roundtable to provide for a thorough study of the effects of genetically-modified and genetically-engineered plants. I'd note here that it is very common in taking up environmental matters to create workgroups and advisory councils and take, literally, years to look at an issue before we move forward on it. I think for an issue as complex and which territory is unknown as genetically-modified organisms are then being released into the environment. I think it deserves an equal amount of study.

The first genetically-engineered crops were planted in open fields in the United States in 1995. Eleven years is too short a time frame to understand how these plants, which have been altered at the molecular level, will affect our health and our environment. It is the thought that these engineered products could pose allergy risks, for example, to human beings. Outdoor experimental crops, such as corn engineered to produce blood clotters and contraceptives, could present significant contamination risks to the food system. Pesticide resistance engineered into these plants can be passed to plants in the wild, creating the potential for weeds that cannot be killed by conventional means.

Proponents of Senate Bill No.777 note that the federal government already has a regulatory framework in place to address these issues, but as we heard in committee, that framework is fraying at the seams. The Food and Drug Administration does not require pre-market safety testing or labeling of genetically-engineered foods and does not approve or disapprove the safety of this food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires no specific safety tests for the approval of genetically-engineered crops, leaving the testing procedures to the industry it oversees, and that is a general problem throughout our federal government today, that the regulators are driving all their so-called scientific information from industry paid scientists. The National Academy of Sciences has criticized this process as often lacking scientific rigor. The EPA has required few safety tests specifically designed for GE crops and does not require the use of internationally-accepted testing procedures to ensure that new GE foods are not allergens. Clearly, we need to learn a lot more about these seeds before this Legislature takes away the ability of local governments to regulate them.

The roundtable created with my substitute would be composed of a broad spectrum of interested parties, including members representing traditional and organic farmers, environmentalists, agribusiness, local government, universities, and consumer advocacy groups. They would be charged with studying whether the current regulatory framework is sufficient to protect human health and the environment. They would look at whether the use of these seeds could lead to the loss of access to organic markets in the United States or foreign export markets that prohibit the use of these seeds. They would study whether the use of genetically-engineered seeds would contribute to the development of pesticide-resistant plants. And they would assess whether the use of these seeds by farmers could lead to greater legal liability for patent infringement or damage to the property of neighboring landowners.

We do not need to rush through the underlying bill. No communities in Michigan have tried to ban genetically-engineered seeds and I have not heard of any planning to do so. I ask for your support of my substitute to allow for more careful deliberation on this proposal.

Senator Brater's second statement is as follows:

I rise to oppose Senate Bill No.777. This bill is a solution in search of a problem. No communities in Michigan have banned the use of genetically-engineered seeds, nor have any attempted to. Senate Bill No.777 is part of a nationwide effort by agribusiness to take control of decisions away from local communities, threaten the public health, and endanger the livelihood of organic farmers.

As of today, 14 states have passed laws similar to the one we are considering. Local governments have historically overseen policies related to public health, safety, and welfare. Prohibiting local decision-making contradicts the legitimate and necessary responsibilities of cities, townships, and counties. No state, including Michigan, has yet enacted comprehensive regulations governing genetically-engineered seeds that protect public health and the environment. Local action on genetically-engineered seeds could address important gaps in federal or state policy. In addition to the issue of local control, this bill also raises some concerns about its impact on public health, which I addressed earlier in discussing my substitute.

An organic farmer's livelihood is based on his or her products being certified as organic, which, in part, requires proper buffering between organic farms and neighboring conventional farms. In order to have that buffering, the organic farmer would be required at his or her own expense to provide it in case a neighbor decided to use genetically-engineered crops next door. Seeds and pollen drift from genetically-engineered crops can directly contaminate organic farms with the subsequent loss of certification as well as organic markets.

In addition to the loss of this certification, these farmers are also at risk of being sued by seed companies for stealing these patented seeds, even though they had no desire or intention of using them. These seeds would have grown in the farmers' fields through no fault of their own and clearly to their own detriment. With the many challenges that small and medium-size farms already face, the Legislature should not restrict the ability of local governments to address their particular needs.

From the House Journal

Rep. Kolb moved to substitute (H-4) the bill.

The question being on the adoption of the substitute (H-4) offered by Rep. Kolb,

Rep. Kolb demanded the yeas and nays,

The demand was supported.

The question being on the adoption of the substitute (H-4) offered by Rep. Kolb,

The substitute (H-4) was not adopted, a majority of the members serving not voting therefor, by yeas and nays, as follows:

Roll Call No. 369 Yeas--33

Anderson Donigan Law, Kathleen Smith, Alma

Bennett Farrah Leland Stakoe

Bieda Gaffney Lemmons, Jr. Tobocman

Brandenburg Hood Lipsey Vagnozzi

Byrnes Hopgood McConico Waters

Cheeks Hunter Meisner Williams

Clack Kolb Miller Wojno

Clemente Law, David Polidori Zelenko



Acciavatti Espinoza Marleau Robertson

Adamini Farhat Mayes Rocca

Amos Garfield McDowell Sak

Angerer Gillard Meyer Schuitmaker

Ball Gleason Moolenaar Shaffer

Baxter Gonzales Moore Sheen

Booher Gosselin Mortimer Sheltrown

Brown Green Murphy Smith, Virgil

Byrum Hansen Newell Spade

Casperson Hildenbrand Nitz Stahl

Caswell Hoogendyk Nofs Steil

Caul Huizenga Palmer Stewart

Cushingberry Hummel Palsrok Taub

DeRoche Hune Pastor Van Regenmorter

Dillon Jones Pavlov Vander Veen

Drolet Kahn Pearce Walker

Elsenheimer Kooiman Plakas Ward

Emmons LaJoy Proos Wenke

Third Reading of Bills

Senate Bill No. 777, entitled

A bill to amend 1965 PA 329, entitled "Michigan seed law," (MCL 286.701 to 286.716) by amending the title, as amended by 1988 PA 455, and by adding section 14; and to repeal acts and parts of acts.

Was read a third time and passed, a majority of the members serving voting therefor, by yeas and nays, as follows:

Roll Call No. 370 Yeas--74

Acciavatti Espinoza McDowell Rocca

Adamini Farhat Meyer Sak

Amos Gaffney Moolenaar Schuitmaker

Angerer Garfield Moore Shaffer

Ball Gillard Mortimer Sheen

Baxter Gleason Murphy Sheltrown

Booher Gosselin Newell Smith, Virgil

Brown Green Nitz Spade

Byrnes Hansen Nofs Stahl

Byrum Hildenbrand Palmer Steil

Casperson Hoogendyk Palsrok Stewart

Caswell Huizenga Pastor Taub

Caul Hune Pavlov Van Regenmorter

Cushingberry Jones Pearce Vander Veen

DeRoche Kahn Plakas Walker

Dillon Kooiman Polidori Ward

Drolet LaJoy Proos Wenke

Elsenheimer Leland Robertson Williams

Emmons Mayes


Accavitti Condino Kolb Miller

Anderson Donigan Law, David Smith, Alma

Bennett Farrah Law, Kathleen Stakoe

Bieda Gonzales Lemmons, Jr. Tobocman

Brandenburg Hood Lipsey Vagnozzi

Cheeks Hopgood Marleau Waters

Clack Hummel McConico Wojno

Clemente Hunter Meisner Zelenko

Pursuant to Joint Rule 20, the full title of the act shall be inserted to read as follows:

"An act to regulate the labeling, coloration, advertising, sale, offering, exposing, or transporting for sale of agricultural, vegetable, lawn, flower, and forest tree seeds; to authorize the director of agriculture to adopt rules for the enforcement of this act; to provide for the inspection and testing of seed; to prescribe license fees; to prescribe penalties for violation of this act; and to repeal certain acts and parts of acts,"

The House agreed to the full title.

Rep. Hildenbrand moved that the bill be given immediate effect.

The motion prevailed, 2/3 of the members serving voting therefor.

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