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Concerns About High-Tech Impact On Minnesota Wild Rice

March 22, 2007


Research on the genetic make-up of wild rice at the University of Minnesota is raising concerns that the natural lake and river-grown crop could be contaminated if open-air genetic tests are performed. Allen Richardson with the "Save Wild Rice Campaign" says the native food may be threatened by research underway at the University of Minnesota. He says it could lead to patenting the crop and the release genetic substances into the air, which would impact the Native American economy and culture.

"We believe that it's unethical, and a violation of native sovereignty to force the Ojibwe to accept contamination of treaty-protected natural wild rice by patented generic genes."

He says the "Save Wild Rice" campaign supports proposed state legislation that calls for an environmental impact statement before any open-air tests of genetically-modified wild rice. Richardson believes Minnesota's wild rice heritage is unique and needs to be protected.

"It's the only treaty-protected grain on the entire continent. It's Minnesota's state grain, and it's considered medicine by the Ojibwe people."

The University says academic freedom gives it the right to conduct open-air tests, and the process is safe. Richardson thinks it isn't because it's known the tests can't be contained, and could contaminate natural Minnesota wild rice. He emphasizes the goal is to protect the crop, not to prevent legitimate research.

Legislation requiring environmental impact statements before genetic testing are HF 1662 and HF 1663. More online at www.savewildrice.net.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN