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6-Regulation: U.S. Federal/State legislative GE activities 2001-2002

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TITLE:  2001-2002 Legislative Activity Related to Agricultural Biotechnology
SOURCE: Pew AgBiotech Initiative, USA
DATE:   June 2003

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2001-2002 Legislative Activity Related to Agricultural Biotechnology

Genetically modified (GM) food and agricultural biotechnology have
generated considerable interest and controversy in the United States and
around the world. Some tout the technology's benefits while others raise
questions about environmental and food safety issues. From time to time,
The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology releases fact sheets on some
of the common questions that are frequently asked about GM food and
agricultural biotechnology. This fact sheet is an update to a similar one
published in January 2002 on state legislative activity in 2001.

View the Legislation Tracker database.
[visit web page to search for detailed information, it contains numerous
links, graphs, and a good search machine]

In recent years, both Congress and state legislatures have been active
regarding agricultural biotechnology. The majority of activity, as
measured by the introduction of legislation, has taken place on the state
level. During the 2001-2002 legislative sessions, 158 pieces of
legislation related to agricultural biotechnology were introduced in 39
states and 31 pieces of legislation were introduced in Congress. This
fact sheet provides an overview of the federal and state legislative
activity that took place in 2001-2002 related to agricultural
biotechnology, the common concerns driving much of that legislation, and
a summary of those bills passed into law.

Federal Activity Tends to Support Agricultural Biotechnology

Thirty-one pieces of legislation (28 bills and 3 resolutions) were
introduced that included language regarding agricultural biotechnology in
either the U.S. House of Representatives or the Senate in the 107th
Congress (2001-2002). Of these, only two bills (H.R. 2646 and H.R. 3009)
and two resolutions (S. Res. 243 and S. Res.75) were passed into law and
each generally support biotechnology. While broad in scope, H.R. 2646 ,
the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 ("the Farm Bill"),
included a number of provisions relating to agricultural biotechnology.
Those provisions included requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to: i)
report to Congress on USDA's implementation of recommendations made by
the National Research Council to modernize the current regulatory process
for genetically-engineered plants; and ii) to conduct a public education
program on the role of biotechnology in food production. The Farm Bill
also established a program to award grants for the use of agricultural
biotechnology to help developing countries and increased funding for USDA
research grants to provide data for assessing the potential environmental
and food safety risks of transgenic plants. H. R. 3009 targeted
"unjustified trade restrictions or commercial requirements, such as
labeling, that affect new technologies, like biotechnology," while S.
Res. 75 and S. Res. 243 established "National Biotechnology Week" in May
2001 and April 2002, respectively. The majority of other bills introduced
during the 107th Congress reflect similar support for biotechnology.
Examples include seeking to authorize more funds for plant genome
research or establishing a program to enhance foreign acceptance of
agricultural biotechnology.

A few bills introduced in the second session of the 107th Congress dealt
with regulation or management of genetically modified (GM) foods. H.R.
4812 addressed issues relating to liability for economic damages to
farmers caused by GM crops and H.R. 4813 increased regulation of GM crops
by amending the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to include GM
foods in the definition of "food additives." S. 3095 also addressed
regulation of GM foods by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The
lack of action taken on these pieces of legislation, however, suggests
that the regulation of agricultural biotechnology was not a top priority
for Congressional legislators in the 2001-2002 legislative session.

States On the Frontlines of Agricultural Biotechnology Legislation

States have emerged as the key battlegrounds on issues raised by
agricultural biotechnology. Ballot initiatives, town hall resolutions and
-most important- state legislative activity in 2001-2002 show that
agricultural biotechnology is an active topic of debate at the state level.

One of the most-watched ballot initiatives in the 2002 election was
Measure 27 in Oregon which, if passed, would have required all foods sold
or distributed in Oregon that contained ingredients produced through
genetic engineering to bear a label identifying this fact. Similar
initiatives were approved for circulation in Washington and Florida , but
were never added to the election ballots in those states because of a
lack of signatures. The Oregon measure did not pass, but more than 30
towns in Vermont did pass non-binding resolutions regarding GM crops in
2002. These resolutions did not directly impact state or town policies
but served as "flags" to encourage Vermont legislators to consider bills
on this topic. Ballot initiatives and town hall resolutions were a very
small part of the state level activities regarding agricultural
biotechnology undertaken in 2001-2002. However, these efforts are part of
the state legislative process and suggest that grassroots efforts are
playing a role in the debate about agricultural biotechnology.

The most significant indicator of state-level efforts to address
agricultural biotechnology issues is the volume of activity in state
legislatures nationwide. In 2001-2002, 158 pieces of legislation (139
bills and 19 resolutions) were introduced in 39 states with Hawaii (23
bills) and New York (19 bills) having the highest number of introductions
per state.

[Graph 1]

The majority of legislation was introduced in the first of the two-year
legislative sessions. Whereas 121 pieces of legislation (103 bills and 18
resolutions) were introduced in 2001, only 37 new pieces of legislation
(36 bills and 1 resolution) were introduced in 2002. This decrease can be
attributed to the fact that many states were not scheduled to meet in the
second legislative year and some states-including Nebraska, Montana and
North Carolina-had emergency-only sessions. In the future, this pattern
is likely to repeat, with the majority of legislation regarding
agricultural biotechnology submitted in the first of any two-year
legislative period.

Common Trends Among Legislative Activity

Examination of legislative activities on both the state and federal level
revealed common trends. In fact, most of the bills and resolutions fall
into one of seven categories:

   1. Protecting agricultural facilities or products from being damaged
or destroyed;
   2. Increasing the level of regulation for the planting and use of GM crops;
   3. Labeling GM food and food products;
   4. Dealing with liability issues raised by agricultural biotechnology,
and developing standards for agricultural contracts that would protect
farmers/producers from possible financial losses;
   5. Requiring long-term studies to look at specific issues related to
agricultural biotechnology;
   6. Supporting agricultural biotechnology either by providing money for
research or delivering formal statements of support; and
   7. Banning certain GM crops from being grown or GM animals from being

Click the pie section for a full explanation of each trend:

[Graph 2]

States Grapple with Two Ends of the Spectrum: Protecting Users and
Managing Misuse

In the 2001-2002 legislative period, almost half of the legislation
introduced at the state level fell into one of two categories. Twenty-
eight percent of the bills introduced dealt with violent activities meant
to destroy GM crops and research facilities. Eighteen percent of the
bills introduced addressed concerns about liability for economic harm to
farmers caused by gene flow from GM crops to non-GM crops, or contract
issues raised by technology providers trying to document unauthorized use
of their seed products. However, the ranking of these two categories was
not consistent from year to year. Although anti-crop destruction
proposals were very popular in 2001, liability and contract issues
dominated the 2002 state legislative sessions.

In 2001, 31 percent of the bills introduced at the state level dealt with
anti-crop destruction initiatives and only 12 percent addressed liability
and agricultural contracts. But in 2002 the number of bills introduced
that dealt with anti-crop destruction shrank to 16 percent of the overall
bills introduced that year. More bills like HB 2649 in Hawaii, which
sought to hold a person who genetically engineers organisms liable for
damages and injuries resulting from the use of such organisms, were
introduced in 2002. Consequently, the liability and agricultural
contracts category grew in 2002 to occupy 40 percent of the bills
introduced that year. When the legislative session of both years is
averaged, the fact these issues emerge as the largest categories suggests
that during the 2001-2002 legislative session many states simultaneously
grappled with efforts to protect users of agricultural biotechnology from
acts of violence against their property, while attempting to clarify the
respective rights and responsibilities of farmers and technology
providers in using or misusing the technology.

Few States Actually Passed Bills Regarding Agricultural Biotechnology in

Despite the significant number of bills introduced in the 2001-2002 state
legislative period, relatively few bills actually passed. Of the 158
pieces of legislation introduced, only 45 passed state legislatures.
Sixty-seven percent of legislation that did pass sought to reduce willful
destruction of agricultural products and the remaining 33 percent dealt
with a breadth of issues unique to the debate about agricultural

[Graph 3]

Thirty bills, which sought to curb violent destruction of GM crops and
research facilities, were passed in 23 states including: Arkansas,
Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho (3), Kansas,
Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri (2), Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina
(2), North Dakota, Oregon (3), South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah,
Virginia (2), Washington and West Virginia. Fifteen pieces of
legislation, which addressed the other six issues, were passed into law
in Idaho, Indiana, Maine (2), Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New
Hampshire (2), North Dakota (4) and South Dakota (2).

[Graph 4]

This latter group of state legislation passed in the 2001-2002 session
reflects a broad range of issues including intellectual property rights
of technology providers, tax incentives to attract (still emerging)
segments of the biotech industry, and moratoriums intended to restrict
new applications of genetic engineering technology. State highlights include:

Idaho passed bill HO 448 in 2002, creating the Idaho Plant Pest Act,
which requires reporting of plant pests, including genetically engineered
plants that, for regulatory purposes, are considered pests. Among other
things this bill authorizes inspections and quarantines and provides
compensation for the loss or destruction of infested or infected plants.

Indiana passed a bill in 2002 (HB 1119 ) that prohibits a seed supplier
(including providers of GM seed) from entering property owned or occupied
by a farmer unless certain conditions are satisfied. It also outlines the
steps a farmer may take if such protection is violated.

Maine passed a bill in 2001 (LD 1266 ) that requires manufacturers or
seed dealers of GM plants to provide written instructions to all growers
on how to plant, grow, and harvest the crops to minimize cross-
contamination of non-GM crops. In addition, the manufacturer or seed
dealers must maintain a list of names and addresses of all Maine growers
of GM plants. The state passed another bill in 2001 (LD 1733) authorizing
voluntary use of labels for foods that do not contain ingredients derived
from GM crops.

Maryland was the first and only state to bar the introduction of a GM
plant or animal when it passed HB189 in 2001. The bill requires a five-
year ban on the release of GM fish in any state waterway connecting to
another body of water.

Mississippi passed bill HB 1617 in 2001 to appropriate funds to the State
Forestry Commission for 2003, including funds for the handling of
genetically improved seedlings.

Nebraska passed a bill (LB 436 ) in 2002 to regulate the labeling,
storage, distribution, transportation, use and disposal of pesticides,
including those made by genetically engineered plants.

New Hampshire passed HB1171 in 2001, which establishes a committee to
study the legislature's role in protecting organic crops from
contamination from GM organisms. In 2002, the state passed SB 353 in
2002, which exempts genetically engineered trees grown for short rotation
tree fiber from timber yield tax.

North Dakota passed several bills in 2001. In addition to SB 2280, which
relates to crop destruction, state legislators passed HB1338, which
requests a study of issues related to genetic modification. A third bill,
SB 2235, establishes a program for farmers to have their seeds analyzed
and certified by a state commission. A fourth bill, HB1442 , limits the
rights of companies with patents on GM seed to collect samples from
farmers without first asking for their permission. The fifth and final
bill, SB 2413, requires seed manufacturers and producers to resolve any
disagreements through mediation or arbitration.

South Dakota passed a bill in 2002 (SB179 ) that focuses on patent
issues. The bill describes the procedures that a person holding a patent
on transgenic seed must follow before entering land farmed by another for
the purpose of obtaining crop samples to determine whether patent
infringement has occurred. South Dakota also passed HCR 1003, a
resolution that expressed support for biotechnology.


Appendices for this report can be constructed by using our web database
of 189 pieces of state and federal legislation. Individual pieces of
legislation can be viewed by state, status and year. Examples of such
lists appear below in Appendices A, B and C:

Appendix A: State Legislation Related to Agricultural Biotechnology
Introduced in 2001-2002

Appendix B: Federal Legislation Related to Agricultural Biotechnology
Introduced in 2001-2002

Appendix C: Ballot Initiatives Related to Agricultural Biotechnology
Introduced in 2001-2002

Appendix D: Key Issues of Legislation Introduced in 2001-2002

Click for additional information on each issue

   1. Anti-Crop Destruction
   2. Regulate GM Crops
   3. Labeling GM Foods
   4. Liability & Ag Contracts
   5. Study or Task Force
   6. Support Biotechnology
   7. Moratorium on GM Crops
   8. Other

The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology is a nonprofit, nonpartisan
research project whose goal is to inform the public and policymakers on
issues about genetically modified food and agricultural biotechnology,
including its importance, as well as concerns about it and its
regulation. It is funded by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to the
University of Richmond. The information presented in this fact sheet was
obtained from each state's General Assembly web site, from the
Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the Grocery Manufacturers of
America (GMA) and the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

phone:  +49-531-5168746
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