Daily News Archive
May 3, 2006
Legislature Considers Anti-Biotech Bills
(Beyond Pesticides, May 3, 2006) This week,
the Vermont House and Senate passed a compromise bill allowing manufacturers
of genetically engineered seeds to be liable for damages if their products
drift into the fields of neighboring farmers. The Vermont Farmer
Protection Act would give farmers who don't want to use modified
seeds an avenue to recover damages if pollen from modified plants drift
into their crops by allowing them to sue a seed manufacturer, claiming
the drift was a private nuisance. Claims could be filed only with proof
of total losses exceeding $3,500, and the legislation exempts corn and
soybean seed manufacturers. The bill is currently headed to the desk
of Governor Jim Douglas, who may veto it.
The issue of who controls the use of genetically modified seed and plants
has been intensely debated in Vermont for more than 1.5 years. On January
3, the Vermont House passed on a voice vote its version of the Farmer
Protection Act.The House version was sent to the Senate, which rejected
it on January 10, 2006. The Senate had passed its own version on April
5, 2005, by a 26-1 vote. On Tuesday, May 02, 2006, the final compromise
bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 19-8, which was the bill's
final hurdle before going the Governor's desk
According to Professor
Drew Kershen, LLD, the Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law at the
University of Oklahoma College of Law and a specialist in agricultural
law, Vermont is one of several states considering legislation that would
make manufacturers of transgenic seeds liable for economic losses experienced
by organic farmers because of "contamination" by biotech crops.
Other states that have considered such legislation include California,
Hawaii, Montana, and North Dakota.
"Each of these bills emerged from the Center for Food Safety (CFS)
founded by Andrew Kimbrell, a long-time opponent of agricultural biotechnology,"
said Professor Kershen.
TAKE ACTION: If you are a Vermont resident, visit www.ruralvermont.org
to find out how you can get involved in this issue.