TAOS — A single line in the state’s budget had some seed savers and food sovereignty activists worried that the ability to regulate seeds locally could be in jeopardy in New Mexico.

But after hundreds of people called on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to line-item veto the language, she struck it from the bill Thursday, when she approved the state’s $7 billion budget.

The budget, House Bill 2, was passed by both chambers of the Legislature during its 60-day session.

Tucked into its 200-plus pages was a sentence that caught the attention of organizations like Española-based Tewa Women United and the New Mexico Acequia Association: “The general fund appropriation includes sufficient funding to the department of agriculture at New Mexico state university to promulgate rules to solely regulate seed.”

“This would prevent cities and counties from enacting ordinances that protect native seeds from GMO seeds, for example,” said a recent social media post by the acequia association.

On March 29, Tewa Women United delivered the governor a petition with 885 signatures asking her to strike the language. Claudia Tristán, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham, said the Governor’s Office also received 518 phone calls on the issue.

A bill with similar seed-regulation language stalled in a committee during the 2018 legislative session after farmers and food activists lobbied to kill the proposal.

“Our local seeds are a precious resource that could be at risk of cross-pollination if genetically engineered seeds are grown in the same area,” said Paula Garcia, executive director of the acequia association. “Local ordinances could provide needed protections.”

A version of this story first appeared in The Taos News, a sister publication of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

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