News Briefs from Around the State

Miller Trying To Avoid Rancor During Same-Sex Marriage Debate

ANNAPOLIS - The Senate will cast a final vote on a controversial bill that would allow same-sex marriage on March 2, Senate President Mike Miller predicted Friday.

The same-sex marriage bill, which passed a Senate committee Thursday, will be debated by the full chamber next week. Miller, who opposes the proposal, plans to use his power as the chamber's president to keep what is expected to be a lively debate as civil as possible.

His message to the rest of the Senate: Keep the venom at a minimum during the debate or be prepared to work over the weekend, a threat that would require the chamber to meet on Feb. 26 and Feb 27. to vote on the bill. He said that scenario is unlikely, though.

Miller's goal is to avoid a repeat of the emotional debate that unfolded in the early 1990s over abortion.

"During the abortion issue I cried," Miller said. "I just grew so angry. Seat mates quit talking to each other, friends stopped talking to each other ... it was just terrible."

Miller touched on a range of topics - pensions, the budget and proposed tax increases - during a roughly 12-minute chat with reporters.

The General Assembly, he said, will pass a "modest" alcohol tax increase that falls short of the proposed "dime-a-drink" tax. Translation: A compromise on the proposed alcohol tax increase is on the horizon.

Miller also called for leaders to start looking into another Chesapeake Bay crossing.

"People are putting their heads in the sand and ignoring the fact that we should be planning another Bay crossing now, deciding where it should be and then finding the money to pay for the bridge," he said.

By Capital News Service's David Saleh Rauf

Biotech Researchers Stress Benefits of Genetically Modified Crops

The United States should warm up to genetically modified foods if it wants its food supply to withstand the impact of global warming, biotech researchers said Friday.

Nina Federoff, professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, called food security "arguably the biggest challenge...of the 21st century" in a speech Friday to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington.

Through genetic modification, scientists can change the DNA of plants and food crops to increase pest resistance and drought tolerance. Traditionally, such traits have been advanced by breeding. Genetic engineering provides a faster alternative.

"We have to adapt crops to a hotter, drier world while doubling the food supply by 2050," Federoff said. With an increase in unexpected weather events like floods and fires due to climate change, crops need to be adapted to extreme conditions, she said.

Genetic modification has drawn criticism from environmental groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists. They worry that genetically modifying food could increase allergic reactions or introduce new new allergens into the food supply.

By Maryland Newsline's Madhu Rajaraman

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