Protect local control of our environment

H671/S631 grants the NC Department of Agriculture sole authority for banning plants and seeds within North Carolina. The intent of this law appears to be preventing cities and counties from using their zoning authority to restrict the use of genetically modified plants and seeds within their jurisdiction. However, there may be equally unattractive unintended consequences. For example, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County (possibly Hillsborough too), currently restrict the types of plants used in landscaping new development. By using their zoning authority in this way, they protect our native species from the most egregious invasives such as bamboo, english ivy, etc. Native species are of critical importance in protecting our riparian systems as well as our local wildlife.

Ellie Kinnaird is against this bill in the Senate and Verla Insko was the sole vote against it in the House (where it passed). Please add your voices to theirs by contacting members of the Senate Agricultural Committee:

Chair, Charles Albertson,
Vice Chair: Austin Allran,
Vice Chair: Ellie Kinnaird,
Vice Chair: A.B. Swindell,
Vice Chair: David Weinstein,
Vice Chair: Bob Atwater,
Ranking Minority Member: Hamilton Horton,

The committee is set to take up H671/S631 on Tuesday, June 21 at 11:00 am. Please act now to protect our food and our native plants and animals.



Here's a breakdown of how similar legislation is being handled in other states:


Thanks for starting on thread on a very important issue. There is a link between the push for biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) plants and trees, the new laws being introduced in the General Assembly, the agreements being entered into by local officials and UNC, and UNC'S pending biotech research park---Carolina North.

This topic affects a wide range of concerns including:
---the health of citizens in N.C. (exposure to GM pollens and food can trigger allergic reactions, asthma attacks and possible autoimmune respones) ;
---the future of organic farming in N.C. (in other areas organic crops have been contaminated by genetically altered crops from cross-pollination and genetic drift);
---the economic health of our State and therefore our taxes at a state and local level (heavy investment of taxpayers' money in building research parks to provide research labs and other infrastructure for public-private partnerships with biotech corporations could result in economic disaster due to the potential GM related health problems and lawsuits and the existing failures plaguing the biotech industry).
---the future safety of our environment and biodiversity (some GM plants and trees have been altered to be so toxic insects die from just the pollen. And contamination due to cross-pollination of existing crops and trees by the gentically altered ones may result in a loss of existing varieties).

As you point out, this topic also involves issues of the powers of local government vs state government. It also involves issues dealing with infringements on individual rights and freedoms by biotech corporations and government leaders under the guise of environmentalism or humanitarian reasons (i.e providing greater amounts of food to third-world countries through GM crops).

The push for "carbon reduction" programs and greenhouse gas emissions reduction agreements also plays a part in the push for GM biotechnology (GM advocates claim GM trees absorb even greater amounts of carbon dioxide than non-modified trees and therefore are better for reducing air pollution). GM trees have already been planted in N.C. and expansion is being discussed by universities and researchers at RTP.

I have posted an article on this issue on my website (The article is around 14 pages long so I assumed it would be too long for a post on OP). I would love to hear more about what you, and others, think about these issues.

Robin--this bill is about putting corporate interests ahead of all others. In order to protect their precious seed patents, the major ag corps such as Monsanto, are willing to strip away our rights to organic food (or at least those that are not genetically modified) and if local governments zoning authority gets in the way, it will be restricted, too --all for the sake of corporate profits. I am absolutely astounded that it has generated so little discussion here or concern in our legislature.


I am also astounded that this has generated so little interest or concern. I just don't get it. Why "leafblower mania" and nothing on on topic with such far reaching and potentially serious consequences to organic farmers, our environment and wildlife and our tax rates. Is this "fiddling while Rome burns" or is everyone actually content to support corporate control and the loss of local control and invidual choice. Should we just happily "pass the Frankenfood?"

The report below is from today's Legislative Update distributed the NC Conservation Network.

As you can see, Senator Ellie Kinnaird is actively opposing this bill, to the point of inviting constituents to testify against it.

Readers in Chatham County and western/southern Durham County can contact Senator Bob Atwater, at , since he is also a member of the Senate Agriculture/Environment Committee and represents those areas.

It's encouraging that Republican Senators Allran and Horton stepped beyond their usual social conservatism to express concerns with this bill. Both have opposed anti-environmental bills in the past, in particular Horton.

As I mentioned at Chapel Hill Town Council last Monday, the only House member to vote against this bill in that chamber was Verla Insko of Orange. Based on comments at the Legislature's Environmental Caucus in mid-May, she was the only House member who had been alerted to the extraordinarily dangerous nature of this two-line bill. Verla's district includes the Carrboro Farmer's Market. Many CFM vendors could be severely damaged by unrestricted GM plant cultivation.

The Senate Agriculture/Environment is scheduled to resume discussion of this bill at 11 AM on Tuesday, June 28.


Opposition delays vote on pro-GMO bill in Senate AENR, June 21.

The Senate Agriculture/Environment committee considered H671, Plant Regulation, Dewey Hill (Columbus-D), at their June 21 meeting, but delayed a vote until next week to allow for further debate on the bill. Only two lines long, H671 says that the State Board of Agriculture is the only entity that can ban plants, and seems innocuous at first blush. According to bill sponsor Rep. Hill, this "tells the whole story." The real story, however, is that the bill is part of a nationwide campaign by agribusiness to preempt local governments from banning the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, as three counties in California have done.

David McLeod, legal counsel for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which supports the bill, generally danced around Senators' questions. Senators Dan Clodfelter (Mecklenburg-D) and Austin Allran (Catawba-R) were concerned that the bill would prevent local governments from controlling invasive aquatic weeds. After McCleod side-stepped the question several times, Allran asked "so the answer is no?" McLeod: "That is my understanding since it is an aquatic weed." Clodfelter definitely disagreed. Sen. Ham Horton (Forsyth-R): so why do we need this bill? McLeod: NC farmers grow 3 million acres of biotech crops, and while there are no existing or proposed bans in NC, "we would like to keep it that way." Horton seemed exasperated: why should we care about three counties in California that have done "some damn fool thing?"

Several members and visitors spoke against the bill, saying it would harm organic farmers in the state. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird (Orange-D): "this bill greatly disturbs me." She said the bill would take away local control and would hurt small farmers, especially organic niche farmers, who could be put out of business if GM pollen contaminates their crops. Sen. Janet Cowell (Wake-D) said that while biotech is big business, the state is poised for a booming organic farming industry – "why would we want to make that more difficult?" She also objected to the "squelching of local debate." Claire Williams, Duke professor and author of a book on GM forests, spoke against the bill, warning that "technology is outstripping public deliberation." Ken Dawson, an Orange County organic farmer invited by Kinnaird, described how genetic drift from GM crops could contaminate his organic crops and strip him of his USDA organic certification. He also said he could be at risk of a lawsuit from GM giants such as Monsanto if their patented GM genes show up in his crops through cross pollination beyond his control – a farmer in Saskatchewan, Canada, has faced just such a lawsuit, he said.

Glenn Jernigan of the American Chemistry Council, spoke for the bill, saying the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration have endorsed the safety of GM crops. He listed a slew of organizations that he claimed support the bill, including local governments, the League of Municipalities and the Association of County Commissioners.

Time ran out and Chairman Albertson postponed a vote on the bill until next Tuesday.

Thanks for the post!

The NC Conservation Network has provided the following template for writing to oppose HB 671:

Dear Senator.....

I am writing to ask you to oppose HB 671, "Amend Plant Pest Law," which is now being considered in the Senate. This vaguely-worded bill is intended to prevent local governments from enacting restrictions on genetically-modified (GM) crops in their jurisdictions. However, it is so broadly written that in effect it will eliminate all local control of unwanted plant species.

I believe that local governments should have the right to pass laws that protect local interests, whether they are agricultural, economic, ecological or cultural interests. Furthermore, it is unwise for the state to take tools away from local government to control the spread of unwanted plant species such as invasive weeds. Riparian systems are especially vulnerable to invasive systems and I'm sure you and all other North Carolina officials share my concern for the long-term quality and quantity of our drinking water.

For all these reasons, I urge you to oppose HB 671 "Amend Plant Pest Law." Thank you very much.

Your Name
Your Address

(Please note--I added one sentence to the Conservation Networks letter...."Riparian systems are especially vulnerable to invasive systems and I'm sure you and all other North Carolina officials share my concern for the long-term quality and quantity of our drinking water.")

Ellie Kinnaird sent out the following update on the Plant Regulation Bill:

"A bad bill may have been averted through turning it into a study bill. The bill would take away from local governments the authority to regulate plants and give that authority exclusively to the state. The bill is in response to local referendums in California to control genetically modified plants (GMO). Never mind we don't have referendums in North Carolina. GMO's are genetically modified to survive Roundup, a highly toxic pesticide. But the GMO's can cross- pollinate the fields of traditional and organic farmers and make their products unacceptable in their particular markets."

"Another bad bill took zoning authority away from municipalities that have grown up next to existing forested areas. While there is the right for the private land owner to profit from the timber on their land, the bill is so broad that cities might not be able to protect trees and buffers in theirborders."


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