Grand Island Independent,
02/06/05 -- 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
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 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."