Grand Island Independent, February 2, 2005
-- CropChoice: Growing liability concerns about
biotech crops have farmers in Vermont, Montana and North
Dakota supporting legislation to make biotechnology
companies, not farmers and grain elevators, liable for
damages from genetically modified crops, according to
the Western Organization of Resource Councils.
The legislation would also prevent the manufacturers
from suing farmers who are unintentionally growing genetically
engineered crops because their fields have been contaminated
by crops planted nearby.
Legislative committees in Vermont and Montana have
heard testimony supporting Farmer Protection Acts and
a hearing has been scheduled for Thursday in North Dakota
by the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Farm advocacy groups across the nation such as WORC
are working with farmers to ensure protection from liability
for any damage caused by biotech products.
"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 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 effects on
"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."