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Brooklin Votes to Become Maine’s First GMO-Free Zone

3 April 2005

Brooklin Votes to Become Maine’s First GMO-Free Zone: Voters Cite Importance of Preventing Contamination and Protecting the Environment As Primary Concerns

BROOKLIN, MAINE – Brooklin voters approved an article on the town meeting warrant declaring Brooklin a Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)-Free Zone. The vote in Brooklin is the 98th resolution opposing genetic engineering to be passed in New England and the first to declare a voluntary moratorium on the planting of GMOs. The Brooklin vote was also the first such vote of any kind on the GMO issue by a municipality in Maine. The article was developed by a handful of local residents who later sought assistance from the six-month old farmer advocacy group GE Free Maine.

According to Brooklin resident Marilyn Anderson, “Simply stated, this article is about declaring the importance of preserving the environment, human health and food by resisting the irreversible GMO contamination of Brooklin. This approved article is not an ordinance and does not restrict businesses from selling, serving or marketing GMO products, nor does it restrict laboratory research.” Anderson and several other Brooklin residents circulated the petition that led to the item being included on the town’s warrant.

The area in and around Brooklin has an increasing number of conventional and organic farmers and gardeners and fishermen, providing the community with healthy food uncontaminated by GMOs. The residents voted to voluntarily preserve the lands, waters and livelihoods of these businesses, which are a great asset to their community, and which would be threatened by the raising of GMOs.

The vote was brought to the Brooklin town meeting on April 2 by residents concerned about the legal and economic ramifications if genetically modified crops contaminate local organic or conventional farms, as well as the impact GMO crops have on the environment. "Once introduced into the environment, these invasive life forms can never be recalled," said Anderson. "The purpose of the article was to ask Brooklin residents to speak out about the importance of safeguarding our town lands and waters by not cultivating genetically modified organisms - GMO plants, trees, fish and animals - in Brooklin."

GE Free Maine is working with residents in municipalities around the state to bring the question of how to best deal with genetically modified crops to town meetings. According to Meg Gilmartin, cofounder of GE Free Maine, “Towns have a responsibility to protect the rights of farmers and landowners who choose not to grow [GE crops] on their land. Town meeting is the purest of our democratic institutions, a place where the issue can be decided face-to-face by local residents without the interference of paid lobbyists."

GE Free Maine stayed away from the Brooklin Town Meeting at the request of local residents believing it important that local residents discuss the issue on their own and make a decision on whether they wished Brooklin to become a GMO-Free Zone. The vote did attract outside opponents of the measure. Doug Johnson, a professional lobbyist for the biotech industry and a partner in biotechnology public relations firm GreenTree Communication, attended the meeting and sought to speak. Local residents did not take kindly to this outside interference. Recently-arrived Brooklin resident John Bradford, a former Republican legislator from Massachusetts moved that Johnson be given the floor, but the Town voted down the motion. Several voters stated that, “We are educated and intelligent people — we don’t need slick, highly paid corporate lobbyists coming in here trying to tell us what to do.”

According to Anderson, “The vote Saturday was just a first step for the State. We are confident that Brooklin will be the first of many towns in Maine to take up this issue, educate themselves on the issue, and take action to help farmers and other landowners, as well as the natural environment, avoid irreversible damage by GMO contamination.”

Gilmartin agrees. "GE Free Maine applauds the residents of Brooklin for banding together, starting a dialogue within their community, and considering what actions to take to protect the right of their fellow citizens, farmers and land owners to remain free from genetic contamination. This action will encourage communities around the state to start similar dialogues, educate themselves and take appropriate steps to protect their communities from the contamination and lawsuits that result from these unnatural and unpredictable crops."

A genetically modified organism is a plant, animal or microorganism whose genetic code has been altered by subtracting or adding genes (either from the same, or a different species) in order to give it characteristics that do not occur in nature. Outside of the United States, Canada, Argentina and South Africa, most countries in the world have rejected or placed restrictions on these crops.

The approved article read “Shall the town vote to voluntarily protect its agriculture and marine economies, environment and private property from irreversible Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) contamination by declaring Brooklin a GMO-free zone?”

The Brooklin response: YES!

For More Information contact Rob or Meg and 207-244-0908 or via email [email protected] or Marilyn Anderson 207-359-4617.