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6-Regulation: GE food labeling in the U.S. - industry fights back

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Food labeling bill goes to House
SOURCE: The Statesman Journal, USA, by Laurence M. Cruz
DATE:   Apr 4, 2003

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Food labeling bill goes to House

A House panel decides to defer to federal guidelines.

A House panel approved a bill Thursday that would bar local governments
from imposing food labeling requirements.

House Bill 2957, sponsored by the Oregon Grocery Association, would
preempt efforts like last year's Ballot Measure 27, which sought to
require labeling of genetically modified foods sold or distributed in or
from Oregon. Voters defeated the proposal last November.

In cases where food is subject to federal labeling requirements, the bill
would bar state agencies from imposing labeling requirements that are
more stringent than the federal ones.

The bill was approved on a 5-1 vote, and now goes to the House floor.

"Oregon does not have, nor can we afford, an agency that can review and
approve labeling based on scientific, nutrition and health data," Joe
Gilliam, president of the grocery association, told the House Agriculture
and Natural Resources Committee.

"However, the federal government does have such mechanisms at the FDA and

Three supporters of state labeling of genetically modified foods
testified in opposition to the bill.

"This bill not only restricts the right to know - it goes beyond that,"
said Richard North, a Portland-area resident and former CEO of the
American Cancer Society in Oregon.

"It restricts the right to act, if we so wish."

North questioned the wisdom of unconditionally deferring to the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration, saying the agency is swayed by political influence.

North held up a carton of milk purchased from a Safeway supermarket that
he said contained rBGH, or genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone,
which is injected into lactating cows so they produce more milk.

The label made no mention of the hormone, which is banned in many
countries but approved by the FDA, even though some say it is linked to

"The U.S. is using its own population as guinea pigs," North said.

Rep. George Gilman, R-Medford, asked why people who don't want to consume
such products don't simply buy organic. North replied that not all
Oregonians can find or afford organic food.

Also supporting the measure is the Oregon Farm Bureau and Oregonians for
Food and Shelter.

Farm bureau spokeswoman Jean Underhill Wilkinson said the bill assured
uniform food labeling and the free flow of products between and within states.

"Nonuniform labeling requirements would add to food packaging,
warehousing and distribution operations," she said.

North said several other states were weighing the issue of labeling of
genetically modified food. In Vermont, several cities have passed
resolutions relating to the issue and that state's Legislature is
considering several bills.

Rep. Kelley Wirth, D-Corvallis, cast the only dissenting vote.

"The federal government should be providing a floor, not a ceiling, and
we're preempting our ability to raise standards," she said.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Indiana, Oregon biotech food, crop legislative front
SOURCE: ChropChoice, USA
DATE:   Apr 3, 2003

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Indiana, Oregon biotech food, crop legislative front

(Thursday, April 3, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Here is news of two state
bills dealing with genetically modified foods and crops.

In Indiana, House Bill1571 was reported out of committee today and is
eligible for second reading -- and amendment -- in the state Senate.
Following the third and final reading will come the vote on the bill.

Three of the four provisions in the original bill meant to protect
farmers made it through committee. Language that would have kept all
lawsuits against farmers in the state was deleted under pressure from
agribusiness, said Troy Roush, an Indiana farmer.

"Once Pioneer gets a farmer into DesMoines or Monsanto gets someone into
St. Louis to defend against a patent infringement case, they can't
effectively defend themselves because of the high costs" of travel and
lodging, Roush said.

However, Roush emphasized what he saw as the following positive aspects
of the bill that did survive committee: 1. If a seed supplier gets a
court order to come onto a farmers land and take samples, then the farmer
is allowed to have independent, identical samples taken. This provision
ensures that a farmer will have access to the same evidence a seed
company has gathered. Farmers can use this evidence to conduct their own
tests. Therefore, if a seed company attempts to sue a farmer for
violating the terms of a seed contract, the farmer will at least have
access to independently gathered evidence, identical to that of the seed
supplier. This would prevent the obvious one sided instance of a seed
supplier suing a farmer, with the only evidence in the case being
evidence that was gathered by the company and tested by the company.

2. If a farmer possesses a product that is patented by the seed supplier,
but the farmer did not intend to possess the patented product, then the
farmer is not liable. This protects farmers who are not growing
genetically modified (GM) or patented seed from being sued for
inadvertently possessing patented genetics. For example, if you plant
conventional corn, and your neighbor plants BT corn (a patented GM
variety), your neighbor's BT corn can cross-pollinate with your
conventional corn causing it to test positive for patented traits. In
this instance, a farmer should not be held liable for patent infringement
just because the wind blew the genes onto the farmer's land. This
protection is needed for farmers in Indiana. In fact, a seed company
representative testified last year before the State's Judiciary Committee
that four out of six of their attorneys believe a farmer who possesses
patented genes because they blew onto his field is technically liable for
patent infringement. If you take this reasoning to its extreme, then
theoretically, every crop farmer in Indiana could be potentially liable
for patent infringement. This defies reason and is morally wrong. If a
farmer did nothing wrong, they should not be technically in violation of
a seed contract.

3. If a seed supplier brings an action against a farmer that is
frivolous, unreasonable, groundless, or litigated in bad faith, then the
farmer has a right to recover litigation costs and court costs. This
basically means that if a seed company brings an action against a farmer,
and the company should have known better, then, if the farmer wins, he
can recover all his attorneys fees and legal costs from the company.

See the bill at:

Meanwhile, in Oregon, State Representative Jeff Kropf (R-Halsey), the
Chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, has introduced
legislation that would prohibit state or local labeling of Genetically
Engineered food. HB 2957, scheduled for a hearing on April 4, states: "A
state or local governmental unit may not impose a labeling requirement
for a food product unless the governmental unit determines:
(1) That the reason for the labeling requirement is recognized and
endorsed by the federal Food and Drug Administration;
(2) The labeling requirement provides health and nutritional information
that will benefit consumers; and
(3) The labeling requirement is the most cost-effective method of
educating consumers regarding the subject of the requirement."
In other words, until the FDA decides that GE foods are unsafe, the state
cannot take any measures to tell its own citizens what's in their food.

Proposed Amendments to the Bill state the following:

Section 1
(1) A local government may not impose requirement for the disclosure or
display of information on a food label.
(2) If a food is subject to a federal requirement for disclosing or
displaying information on the label, a state agency may not impose a
labeling requirement regarding the same information that is more
stringent than the federal requirement.