Vermont, March 12, 2004 (ENS): Vermont Senators
voted 28-0 Wednesday to support the Farmer Protection
Act (S.164), a bill to hold biotech corporations liable
for unintended contamination of conventional or organic
crops by genetically engineered plant materials.
The debate revolved around patent laws that allow biotech
corporations like Monsanto to sue farmers for patent
infringement whose fields are contaminated with genetically
modified pollen or plant materials.
Senator Vincent Illuzzi, a Republican representing
Essex-Orleans, illustrated cross-pollination of corn
varieties with multi-colored ears of Vermont corn.
The vote comes after 79 Vermont towns have passed Town
Meeting measures calling on lawmakers in Montpelier
and Washington enact a moratorium on genetically modified
organisms and 10 percent of Vermont's conventional dairy
farmers have pledged not to plant the crops.
"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). "Today the Vermont Senate took the
first step to defend family farmers from these kinds
of intimidation suits and the hazards of genetically
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 state in the union
that is free of transgenic crops.
"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
"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," said Canning.