Farmer Protection Acts in Vermont, Montana, and North Dakota
FARMER PROTECTION ACTS CROP UP IN THREE STATES
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