Rally for organic crops is set today BY EMILIA ASKARI FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER April 18, 2006 Claire O'Leary Maitre was a Bloomfield Township mom in the 1990s when she first questioned the safety of the food she was feeding her family. The more she read about crops bred to include herbicides or insecticides in their genes, the more concerned she became. Before long, O'Leary Maitre was a nationally known activist on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Today, she is heading to Lansing to rally against a Republican-backed bill before the state Legislature that would prevent local units of government from passing ordinances that prohibit the planting of GMO crops within their boundaries. The problem, O'Leary Maitre and other environmentalists say, is that the wind can blow pollen from genetically modified crops to other fields. They fear that genetically modified food will have a detrimental effect on people's health in the long run. Many in the agricultural industry disagree. They point out that seeds have been bred to enhance traits for centuries. The difference now, O'Leary Maitre says, is that modern genetic engineering techniques allow businesses to add synthetic chemicals to genes. "Not just my children, but all children of the world -- that's who will inherit this problem," said O'Leary Maitre. Jim Byrum, Michigan Agri-Business Association president, said the concern about drifting pollen can be addressed by organic farmers if they leave a large enough buffer between their crops and neighboring GMO fields. "This bill is not anti-organic products," he said. Although no local Michigan governments have passed ordinances outlawing GMO crops, local governments in California and several states have, Byrum said. Fourteen other states, mainly in the Midwest, have passed bills similar to the one passed by the Michigan Senate last month. The state House Agriculture Committee is to take up the bill today. Marie Stanyar, 53, of Dearborn is an organic produce customer who plans to be at today's rally. "The word is spreading throughout the state so people who buy directly from organic farmers are aware," she said. "The quality of the seeds is at stake with this bill." Today's rally is to begin at 1:30 p.m. in Room 404 of the Capitol Building. Contact EMILIA ASKARI at 248-351-3298. Copyright (c) 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc. Vicki Morrone Organic Vegetable and Crop Specialist C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems CARRS Departent of Community, Agriclture, Recreation and Resource Studies 303 Natural Resources Bldg Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 48824-1222 Phone: 517-353-3542 Cell: 517-282-3557 FAX 517-353-3834 E-Mail: [log in to unmask] Don't forget! A carrot a day may keep the doctor away but an ORGANIC carrot a day, grown locally will taste good, support your farmer neighbor AND may keep the doctor away!!!