On March 29th, 2008, the residents of Montville, Maine voted to ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within the town’s borders. They did so because, among other things, the town’s residents were concerned about the potential for genetic contamination from farms growing genetically modified crops (GM crops). In enacting its ordinance, Montville became the first local government outside of California to ban the cultivation of GM crops. . .
Using Montville’s ordinance for illustrative purposes, this Note will focus on the threats that state law poses to local governments that seek to regulate GM crops. As background, the Note will begin with a summary of the federal regulatory regime with respect to GM crops. Then, the Note will provide a brief discussion of the Supremacy and Dormant Commerce Clauses. Next, the Note will examine the two primary approaches to granting and construing municipal power: Home Rule and Dillon’s Rule. This Note shall refer to states that grant broad and liberally construed authority to local governments (at least with respect to local issues) either by statute or by constitutional provision as “Home Rule” states. Those states that require express authorizing legislation for areas in which local governments seek to regulate, and whose courts strictly construe local authority shall be referred to as “Dillon’s Rule” states. This Note will use Maine and California as examples of Home Rule states and Vermont will illustrate a Dillon’s Rule state. This exercise will aid in the determination of whether a town in these states would have the constitutional authority to enact a Montville-style ordinance. Next, the Note will examine the issue of state preemption, using the socalled “Right to Farm” laws of Maine, California, and Vermont as examples of potential preemptive statutes. Finally, the Note will apply the state’s right to farm law to see if it preempts a Montville-style ordinance. . .