Senate Wants Farmers Protected from Biotech Companies
(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2004) Vermont joins Mendocino County, CA at the forefront of domestic resistance to genetically engineered crops by passing the first bill in the nation designed to hold biotech corporations accountable for contamination by genetically engineered crops.
On March 10, Vermont senators voted 28-0 to support the Farmer Protection Act (S.164), a bill that holds biotech corporations liable for unintended contamination of conventional or organic crops by genetically engineered plant materials.
The vote comes after 79 Vermont towns passed Town Meeting measures calling on lawmakers in Montpelier and Washington enact a moratorium on GMOs. Ten percent of Vermont's conventional dairy farmers have also pledged not to plant the crops.
The historic decision was peppered by debate on the patent laws that allow biotech corporations like Monsanto to sue farmers for patent infringement for crops contaminated with genetically modified organism (GMO) pollen or plant materials.
"The Farmer Protection Act is a pre-emptive strike to stop predatory lawsuits against Vermont's family farmers by biotech companies like Monsanto," said Ben Davis with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). "The Vermont Senate took the first step to defend family farmers from these kinds of intimidation suits and the hazards of genetically engineered crops."
VPIRG is among a coalition of groups including Rural Vermont, Institute for Social Ecology, and Vermont Genetic Engineering Action Network who are spearheading the grassroots campaign for the first "GE Free" state in the union.
"Big biotech corporations are writing the rules in their own interests at the national and international level, and using their patented GMOs as a tool to contaminate and control farmers," said Doyle Canning, a campaigner with the GE Free VT campaign. "Vermont is showing that a little state can make a big statement against corporate greed and work towards a Time Out on this technology. We are working in concert with the folks in Hawaii, Mendocino County, and in the 30 nations around the world where GMO crops are stringently regulated, to put farmers first."
Vermont's Farmer Protection Act was amended to include language specifically targeting genetic engineering patent lawsuits. "The amendment says that a person who is found to have 'trace amounts' of genetically engineered material shall be indemnified by the manufacturer if they are sued. In other words, it protects a farmer from being sued by the manufacturer if the farmer's crops are contaminated with GMO material. This is unprecedented," said Amy Shollenberger, policy director at Rural Vermont.
The GE Free Vermont Campaign on Genetic Engineering is a statewide coalition of public interest groups, businesses, concerned citizens and farmers, who are organizing to oppose genetic engineering at the local, state and national level, and calling for a "Time Out" on GMOs.
Source: GE Free Vermont www.gefreevt.org.
For more information contact: Doyle Canning, GE Free VT 802.279.0985 or Amy Shollenberger, Rural Vermont 802-793-1114.
TAKE ACTION: Protect our land and food from GMOs. Buy organic, lobby your supermarket to label GE food, and write your local and state congressional representatives in support of the inspiring movements taking place in Vermont and elsewhere.