Daily News Archive
From May 3, 2006                                                                                                        

Vermont 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.