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January 27, 2005

Another Biotech First For Vermont

One thing not mentioned in this particular article is that Dave Zuckerman, the farmer / legislator we interviewed for our series of articles on the Intervale in Burlington, has been appointed CHAIRMAN of the House Agriculture Committee!

MONTPELIER, VT -- The Farmer Protection Act (s.18) passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee this morning on a voice vote. The committee expressed its intention to move the bill to the Judiciary Committee, as the bill deals with liability, contract, and patent infringement issues that face Vermont's family farmers because of the presence of genetically engineered crops in the state.

"The problem is that these genetically engineered seed contracts force the farmer to assume all liability for a product that is impossible to control," explained Amy Shollenberger, Policy Director at Rural Vermont, "and the solution is the Farmer Protection Act, which places that liability squarely on the shoulders of the manufacturers of the seeds. If the product is indeed safe, then the companies should be proud to stand behind it. If it is not, then farmers should not have to bear the burden and pay the price for the damages."

In his testimony, Ed Miller, lobbyist for Monsanto, explained that strict liability was originally developed because of circus animals escaping and harming people. He noted that the intent was to hold the animals' keepers harmless if they had done their best to contain the animals. Miller said that seed companies should not have to assume the liability for their seeds.

"The strongest argument coming out of the biotech industry is that organic farmers must be responsible for protecting themselves," commented Ben Davis, Environmental Advocate at Vermont Public Interest Research Group. " Why should farmers have to bear the burden when it is impossible to contain the contamination?"

The bill is expected to move to the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, and a companion bill will likely be introduced in the House next week as well. House Speaker Gaye Symington commented, "I encourage the House Agriculture Committee to seriously consider the Farmer Protection Act. I am committed to allowing all sides to be heard, and to doing all that we can to support a diverse agricultural economy in Vermont."

CONTACT: Amy Shollenberger, Policy Director, Rural Vermont 802-793-1114

Posted by shepherd.ogden at January 27, 2005 07:33 AM


Absolutely must keep the liability for damage on the part of the manufacturer every time that party makes someting that is not controllable.

Furthermore the maker of the product must be lialble to the damage done to farms and farmers who don't want but end up having products they don't want. Monsanto was told early on that they were doing something that should not happen. There are better non patented ways to handle the problem they targeted Bob

Posted by: Bbob Norsen at January 27, 2005 08:50 PM