Two for the Good Food News
In an historic move this Tuesday, the Maine House of Representatives took the final step on a controversial bill that would provide Maine's farmers with new protections and assurances when they choose to grow crops that have been genetically engineered. This groundbreaking effort on the part of the Maine Legislature comes after nearly a year and a half of dialogue and compromise amongst many of the key players in Maine's agricultural economy.
Originally brought forth by Rep. Jim Schatz of Blue Hill, working closely with the Protect Maine Farmers campaign, a statewide grassroots effort of Food for Maine's Future to defend and promote small diversified family farms, the final version of the bill is being lauded by all players as a significant step forward in genetic engineering policy at the state level. The Senate version of the bill which was accepted by the House of Representatives on Tuesday has three important components, but lacks a fourth that was added as an amendment by the House last week. The final version of the bill prevents lawsuits for patent infringement against farmers who unintentionally end up with genetically engineered material in their crops, ensures lawsuits that do occur will be held in the state of Maine, and directs the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources to develop and implement Best Management Practices for Genetically Engineered Crops.
And another No to the use of genetically engineered rice:
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) welcomes the decision by Cera Products, manufacturer of performance drinks for athletes and oral rehydration solutions, to reject use of Ventria’s rice-derived compounds in Cera’s products. The Maryland-based company recently declared its position in a letter responding to a 2007 CFS report entitled “A Grain of Caution: A Critical Assessment of Pharmaceutical Rice.”
The CFS report assesses a range of concerns associated with Ventria’s development of rice genetically engineered as a “biofactory” for production of recombinant human proteins with putative pharmaceutical properties. The report also stated that Cera Products, Inc. had displayed interest in marketing products containing Ventria’s compounds, based on public statements made by Dr. William Greenough, cofounder and scientific advisory board member of Cera Products.
In the letter sent to the Center for Food Safety on February 20, 2008, Cera Products President and CEO Charlene Riikonen affirmed: “Our company is not ‘a likely partner with Ventria,’ (as stated on page 22 of your paper), nor are we including or plan to include any GMO rice in our products. We do not know enough about it for one thing, and certainly further research is needed to support any claims as well as issues and concerns regarding the GMO rice.”
“We welcome Cera Products’ rejection of Ventria’s genetically engineered pharmaceutical rice compounds,” said Bill Freese, CFS science policy analyst and author of the report. “Ventria’s products have not been adequately tested, may pose risks to consumers, and have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. What’s more, use of these compounds has not been proven to offer any advantages over existing oral rehydration therapies.”