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6-Regulation: Senate advances GMO liability bill in Vermont (USA)

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Senate advances GMO liability bill
SOURCE: The Associated Press, by Lisa Rathke /, USA
DATE:   1 Apr 2005

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Senate advances GMO liability bill

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- The Vermont Senate on Friday gave preliminary approval
to a bill that would make seed manufacturers rather than farmers liable
for damages from genetically modified crops.

As the measure heads for a final vote, an amendment is expected to be
introduced next week that could dramatically change the bill.

The version passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week and
approved by the full Senate on Friday is designed to help farmers recover
losses from the accidental spread of genetically modified crops,
supporters say.

"The purpose is to establish some legal protection for Vermont farmers,"
said Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor.

The bill applies so called "strict liability" to seed manufacturers,
making them responsible for damages their products cause even if they are
found to be not at fault.

Opponents, including Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr, who said he would
urge the governor to veto the bill in its current form, say strict
liability is inappropriate for GMOs.

Sen. Wendy Wilton, R-Rutland, the only member of Judiciary Committee who
opposed the bill, said the strict liability standard may drive
manufacturers to stop selling GMO seeds in Vermont. If consumers buy
seeds from other states and plant them in Vermont, they could end up
being liable, she said.

"Right now I think there's lots of problems in this bill that may result
in farmers really not being protected and that's my big concern," Wilton said.

She plans to sponsor an amendment with two other senators that would
reduce the liability requirement for manufacturers.

Supporters on Friday suggested that the bill is not about the safety of
GMOs but is instead about the legal issues surrounding them.

"This is not about whether GE seeds are good or bad. It's about lawsuits
and the liability that people face," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington.

Supporters said misinformation had been circulating about the bill. The
legislation does not pass judgment on the safety of GMOs or pit organic
farmers against nonorganic farmers, Campbell said.

"It does not restrict the use or sale of GE seeds in Vermont," he said.

The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to consider the amendment on


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