GENET archive


6-Regulation: News on Montana (USA) and North Dakota (USA) GE wheatbills

genet-news mailing list

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

TITLE:  Bill touted as protector of wheat farmers
SOURCE: Billings Gazette, USA, by Courtney Lowery
DATE:   Feb 6, 2003

------------------ archive: ------------------

Bill touted as protector of wheat farmers

HELENA - Supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 266 said Wednesday they
want to protect Montana grain growers. They just want to protect them
from different things.

SB266, by Sen. John Cobb, R-Augusta, would ensure farmers restitution if
their wheat was contaminated with a genetically modified counterpart. It
would require any company introducing genetically engineered or modified
wheat to pay a $10 million bond that would pay for any potential losses
of crop by contamination. The bond would be returned in five years.

Some of the largest importers of Montana-grown wheat have made it clear
they do not want and won't accept genetically engineered crops,
supporters said. Therefore, wheat, if contaminated, cannot be exported,
supporters said.

Introduction of genetically modified wheat would be to the detriment of
Montana grain growers, said Jim Barngrover, of the Alternative Energy
Resources Organization, and force those countries to say, "We will go
someplace else to buy our wheat."

Barngrover's other fear comes from the fact that Montana doesn't have any
regulations on contaminated wheat.

Since contamination has occurred in introductions elsewhere, he said,
"There's no question it will happen," in Montana, a place where even
insurance won't cover farmers if their wheat isn't sellable because it's
been contaminated by genetically modified wheat.

"It's considered an act of God by the insurance industries," Barngrover said.

Opponents, however, blasted the bill because they said it in fact makes
the state vulnerable to competition among other states without such
restrictions. In essence, the said, it doesn't protect growers.

John Stoner, of the Montana Grain Growers Association, said the bill
would take away the ability for "farmers to flex with the ongoing bio-
tech" advances.

John Youngberg, of the Montana Farm Bureau, said that if Montana State
University were to develop a sawfly-resistant strain of wheat and was
ready to release it to a small company, this company couldn't introduce
the wheat without $10 million. In effect, Youngberg said, the bill would
be letting one company control the whole market.

Cobb, however, called the bill "simple" and "conservative," considering
that last session, proposed legislation called for an outright ban of
such grain. In fact, he said, it will not affect research of bio-
technology at all.

The bill creates a "simple mechanism so you have a way of getting
restitution quickly," if your wheat has been contaminated, he said. The
bill creates a board that would adjudicate such claims, so as "not have
neighbor fight neighbor" and keep the court system from being bogged down
with such cases, Cobb said.

Most testimony, both for and against, referenced Monsanto, an
international agriculture product company, introducing what is called
"Roundup ready" wheat. The wheat would resist the herbicide Roundup,
which Monsanto makes, while killing weeds around it.

While testimony wavered as to whether or not Monsanto would ever
introduce the wheat to Montana, Cobb said he expects to see it within the
next two years.

Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Korea buy 93 percent of Montana's
wheat and have indicated that they will not accept genetically modified
wheat, officials said. State Department of Agriculture statistics also
show in 2000, the state exported almost $200 million worth of grain out
of the state.

The bill estimates that Montana exports up to $500 million worth of wheat

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

TITLE:  North Dakota Legislature defeats biotech wheat oversight board
SOURCE: Associated Press/The Grand Forks Herald, USA
DATE:   Feb 7, 2003

------------------ archive: ------------------

North Dakota Legislature defeats biotech wheat oversight board

BISMARCK - Advocates of tougher oversight for the possible North Dakota
introduction of biotech wheat lost two initiatives in the Legislature on
Thursday, including a bill to make it easier to sue the seed's producer.
Senators voted 28-19 to reject a proposal to put Monsanto Co. on the hook
for damages if a farmer's conventional wheat field is pollinated by
genetically modified wheat. Organic wheat farmers say such contamination
could make their crop worthless. In the House, representatives defeated
legislation to create a "transgenic wheat board" with responsibility for
monitoring biotech wheat research, as well as reactions among North
Dakota's foreign export customers to the idea of buying the wheat. Even
supporters of the board, which was defeated 65-27, conceded it would have
little power. Efforts to give it the authority to block biotech wheat
plantings were defeated, and the result, said Rep. Tom Brusegaard, R-
Gilby, was a "nebulous board" of dubious value.