Seed control at stake in Roundhouse

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A bill that would take away local authority governing seeds has been introduced to the New Mexico House of Representatives and is scheduled to be heard by a committee today (Feb. 8).

H.B. 161, the "New Mexico Seed Law," was introduced by Republican Reps. William Rehm and Jimmie C. Hall, both of Albuquerque. The bill would give the state exclusive power to enact rules and laws for grain and vegetable seeds, including the "cultivation, harvest, production, processing, certification, labeling, inspection…sale, storage, transportation, distribution [and] possession" of any agricultural seeds.

The New Mexico Attorney General noted "at least 29 states have adopted seed preemption laws, which block local governments from enacting their own rules or laws on seed and which presumably includes [genetically modified organisms]," according to an official financial analysis of the bill.

Many agricultural crops, such as corn and soybeans, have been genetically modified by corporations for particular traits. Many of those seeds are patented, which legally prevents farmers and gardeners from saving seeds of those crops.

"New Mexico is a unique state with deeply rooted agricultural traditions intertwined with native seeds. These seeds are culturally and spiritually important to Pueblo and tribal communities as well as to acequias and land-based communities," read a Feb. 5 Facebook post of Tewa Women United, based in Española. "These preemption laws are intended to block attempts to limit or regulate GMO cultivation at the county level."

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House State government, Indian and Veterans Affairs Committee Feb. 8 in Santa Fe.

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