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6-Regulation: Montana's (USA) GE wheat bills die in committee

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TITLE:  Biotech wheat bills die in committee
SOURCE: The Billings Gazette, USA, by Courtney Lowery
DATE:   Feb 25, 2003

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Biotech wheat bills die in committee

HELENA -- The Senate Agriculture Committee has killed two bills designed
to protect grain growers against their crops being "contaminated" with
genetically engineered grain.

The committee on Monday indefinitely postponed Senate Bill 244, by Sen.
Ed Butcher, R-Winifred, after doing the same to SB266, by Sen. John Cobb,
R-Augusta, two weeks ago. Butcher's bill would have made patent holders
of genetically modified wheat include instructions with the seed for
planting, growing and harvesting the grain.

Those instructions would include creation of a buffer zone between
genetically engineered plants and wild or conventionally grown plants,
which would have to be at least as inclusive as federal laws.

Cobb's bill would have required manufacturers, or patent holders, to post
a $10 million bond that would go to pay for any losses of crop by
possible contamination. The bond would be returned in five years.

The news that Monsanto has developed "Roundup Ready" wheat and is ready
to introduce it to Montana by 2005 has some growers optimistic and others
a little leery. Supporters of both the bills note that many of Montana's
overseas importers, namely those in the Pacific Rim, have zero tolerance
for genetically modified grain. Contamination of conventional crops could
render a grower's crop moot and the grower penniless.

Those opposing the bills say that by putting restrictions on the advent
of genetically engineered grain in Montana will keep the state behind the

Supporters of the bills, like Butcher, say the bills aren't meant to stop
bio-tech, or even to curb the introduction. They say they just want to
make sure Montana has all the right rules to ensure a safe introduction.

"This is a gentle bill," Butcher said. "This is not making an island of
Montana. There are no real restrictions on the wheat. We're simply saying
when they come in that the growers who do elect to use it, make sure they
are protecting those who don't choose to use it."


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