Farmer Protection Acts in Vermont, Montana, and North Dakota
FARMERS PUSH FOR SHIELD FROM BIOTECH CROP LIABILITY AS STATES TRY TO COPE WITH GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS
February 4, 2005
Billings, Mont. - Farmers in Vermont, Montana, and North Dakota are supporting legislation to make biotechnology companies, not farmers and grain elevators, liable for damages from genetically modified crops. These bills would also prevent the manufacturers from suing farmers whose fields are contaminated by genetically engineered crops and are unintentionally growing these crops.
Legislative committees in Vermont and Montana heard testimony today supporting Farmer Protection Acts. More hearings are scheduled in both states next week for further consideration of the legislation.
A hearing is scheduled next Thursday in North Dakota by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Senate Bill 2235.
Farm advocacy groups across the nation are working with farmers to ensure protection for farmers and by holding companies responsible for any damage caused by their products.
"We've done our homework for Vermont's farmers and our bill is strong and clean. We must make sure that farmers are not bearing the burden for the manufacturers who are marketing a product that is designed to contaminate," stated Amy Shollenberger, policy director of Rural Vermont. "I am encouraged by the strong support for S.18."
In Montana, wheat growers lined up to support Senate Bill 218 during a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"If genetically engineered wheat is introduced, this bill will protect farmers from the liabilities associated with this crop resulting from contamination by making sure biotechnology companies are responsible for their product," said Dena Hoff, a farmer near Glendive, Mont., and representative of the Northern Plains Resource Council.
Hoff cited a recently released study, Monsanto vs. Farmers, by the Center for Food Safety that found that Monsanto has sued or is suing more than 100 farmers for patent infringement. Even farmers who have not planted the seeds are at risk of these lawsuits.
Currently, farmers who buy genetically engineered seeds must sign a Technology Use Agreements. These agreements shield the patent company from liability for contamination and place the full liability burden on farmers. Farmers contend these agreements essentially pit farmer against farmer when conflicts arise.
Farmers are equally concerned about the affects on grain elevators. "Losses to a country elevator for a 400,000 bushel train load of wheat to a west coast port could equal a half-million dollar loss of milling grade, transportation costs, and railroad charges for a train load of wheat sitting idle at the port," said Todd Leake, a wheat farmer from Grand Forks County, N.D., and member of the Dakota Resource Council. "These losses would bankrupt these country elevators."
Rural Vermont educates, activates, and advocates for living soils, thriving farms, and healthy communities.
Northern Plains is a grassroots conservation and family agriculture group that organizes Montana citizens to protect water quality, family farms and ranches, and a high quality of life.
The Dakota Resource Council is a grassroots citizens group in North Dakota working for family agriculture and responsible energy development since 1978.
Northern Plains and the Dakota Resource Council are members of WORC (Western Organization of Resource Councils), a grassroots organization of farmers, ranchers, and consumers in seven western states.
For more information, contact: Amy Shollenberger, Policy Director, Rural Vermont, 802-793-1114; Kevin Dowling, WORC, 406-252-9672; Dena Hoff, 406-687-3645; Todd Leake, DRC, 701-594-4275