GENET archive


6-Regulation: Current discussion on GE liability laws

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Move to protect organic farmers from GM crops
SOURCE: Financial Times, UK, by John Mason
DATE:   Feb 12, 2003

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Move to protect organic farmers from GM crops

New laws could be passed to help organic farmers recover losses caused by
any commercialisation of genetically-modified crops, Michael Meacher said

Current laws were inadequate to help such farmers whose businesses might
suffer because of cross-pollination from GM crops grown on neighbouring
farms, the environment minister said.

Proposed European liability laws might not offer protection either.

"We want to look at whether we need domestic liability legislation," Mr
Meacher said, insisting the government remained committed to
strengthening the organic sector.

The move would address a central issue surrounding how modified and non-
modified plants can co-exist if the government approves the commercial
cultivation of GM crops later this year.

Scientists agree that "geneflow" from GM to non-GM plants would be
inevitable but can be minimised by adequate separation distances between
neighbouring crops.

But organic farmers argue cross-pollination will build up over time,
causing them to lose their GM-free status and possibly go out of business.

The liability issue is being examined by the Agriculture and Environment
Biotechnology Commission, the official watchdog, which is expected to
make recommendations to government later this year.

Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, the organic
farming body, welcomed the move.

"The current law will not provide any protection at all for non-GM
farmers who lose income because of GM contamination. There are hundreds
of organic farmers in the US and Canada who have lost money - we don't
want that happening here," he said.

However, any move to strengthen the liability laws will be opposed by the
biotechnology industry, which could lose financially if successful claims
were brought.

Croplife International, the plant science industry body, said existing
European Union laws were sufficient. "We don't feel a need for any change
to address a specific technology," it said.

At another GM conference organised by the Royal Society, the scientific
academy, ecologists argued GM crops posed less of a threat to the
environment than some exotic plants commonly sold in garden centres.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  State fund could help farmers with contaminated grain
SOURCE: Iowa Farm Bureau, USA, by Dale Johnson
DATE:   Feb 10, 2003

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State fund could help farmers with contaminated grain

Farmers whose grain is contaminated by cross pollination would be able to
seek restitution from a state fund.

All grain producers would be assessed a one-quarter cent fee to raise
money to indemnify producers with contaminated crops. Payments from a
state Grain Integrity Indemnity Fund would be made on 90 percent of a
claim up to $150,000 per individual.

"In the agriculture community, do we do something like this or do we let
the lawyers get a hold of it?" asks Rep. Henry Rayhons (R-Garner), who
introduced HF 108 last week.

Rayhons, a farmer, said past contamination events, like StarLink and last
year's two events involving soybeans contaminated by pharmaceutical corn,
spurred introduction of the bill.

Roger Lansing of Odebolt believes such a fund is needed. He grows 260
acres of organic corn and soybeans.

In 2001, he planted certified feed-grade organic soybeans. But in the
fall, very small traces of Roundup Ready genetics appeared in his
harvested crop. He faced a potential $40,000 loss. The value of his beans
would have dropped from $16 per bushel to around $5 a bushel, the market
price for conventional soybeans.

"How it happened, I don't know," says Lansing. "Eventually, my crop got sold.

"There are other producers who weren't so lucky. One hauled organic corn
350 miles and it tested positive for StarLink. He lost $1,500 on that
load. I've heard of five or six other cases."

But the incident made Lansing think about the whole food chain, and how
easily contamination can occur. Agriculture is moving toward production
of crops and specific characteristics to meet processor specifications.
Unwanted traits could potentially devalue a crop. And if contamination
happens, who is responsible?

Gary Bogenrief, president of ProfiSeed International in Hampton, exports
organic soybeans to Japan. "I have to test all of my soybeans for
genetically modified organisms or it's outlawed under organic rules.
Japan is very critical," he says in support of the proposed indemnity fund.

State fund

Rayhons says the bill attempts to protect all farmers, with every grain
farmer paying an assessment of up to one-quarter cent per bushel on corn
and one-quarter of 1 percent of the net market price on soybeans. The
rates would be adjusted annually and assessments would be non-refundable.

Funds would go into the Grain Integrity Indemnity Fund. The fund would
hold a minimum of $15 million and a maximum of $25 million.

Overseeing the fund would be a nine-member board consisting of six
representatives of the grain industry--four corn and soybean farmers, one
of whom must be an organic grower, plus two licensed grain dealers--and
three appointees by the secretary of agriculture, the commissioner of
insurance and the treasurer of the state.

Farmers with contaminated grain could file claims with the fund within 12
months of the contamination event for the diminished value of the grain.
Contamination is defined as an alteration of the genetic characteristics
of the plants or commingling with other grain.

"This isn't just an organic issue. It's anyone who might lose a market
because of cross contamination," Lansing adds.

The proposed bill, adds Bogenrief, is designed to protect value-added
agriculture or new biotech crops, such as pharmaceuticals, so they can be
grown in Iowa.

The Iowa Farm Bureau is studying the concept outlined in the bill.