GENET archive


6-Regulation: GM battle sprouts in the States

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TITLE:  Montana legislature shoots down GM liability law
SOURCE: Checkbiotech, Switzerland, by Robert Derham
DATE:   26 Apr 2005

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Montana legislature shoots down GM liability law

In the last hours of the legislature session, the Montana legislature
rejected a bill dealing with the liability of planting genetically
modified wheat.

Bill number SB218, proposed by Montana Senator Jon Tester (D), was turned
down by the Montana Legislature at the close of its session.

The bill would have mandated that manufacturers of genetically modified
wheat seeds were liable for any damages that might result from
genetically engineered varieties crossing with conventional or organic
varieties grown in the state of Montana.

At the present, Montana law places the responsibility on the farmer to
sue a neighboring farmer for damages should cross-contamination from a
transgenic crop occur.

Similar bills have been proposed and turned down in other US states.
However, the most contested to date is Vermont, where the Senate has
approved a bill that would place the liability on the produce on the
seeds, not the farmer.

The Vermont bill is now being reviewed by the House, but is expected to
be rejected by Governor James Douglas, who has openly expressed his
opposition to the bill.

Recently, Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, proposed a similar bill
for California.

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TITLE:  GM Battle Sprouts in the States
SOURCE: Stateline.Org, USA, by Eric Kelderman
DATE:   25 Apr 2005

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GM Battle Sprouts in the States

Statehouses are the latest front in the international fight over
regulating genetically engineered plants.

Seed companies, pharmaceutical makers and biotechnology groups are
pushing legislators to limit oversight of experimental crops designed to
resist disease and insects or to produce chemicals and enzymes for
scientific research. But environmentalists and food and beverage
producers are urging caution, warning lawmakers of unknown economic and
health risks of genetically engineered crops that could cross-pollinate
with regular plants.

State lawmakers, so far, are siding mostly with biotechnology proponents.
Seven states -- Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota
and Pennsylvania -- have enacted laws to prohibit counties and other
local governments from banning or regulating genetically enhanced seeds
in their jurisdictions. A similar bill, supported by the agribusiness
industry, is awaiting action by the governor in Georgia. And like-minded
measures are being considered by legislatures in Arizona, Oklahoma and
West Virginia.

At the same time, two states are considering new restrictions and
penalties designed to limit bioengineered crops. A bill in the Vermont
Legislature would make seed companies, instead of farmers, liable for
damage from genetically modified plants. And in Oregon, a bill has been
introduced to ban the outdoor growing of genetically engineered plants
intended for industrial or pharmaceutical uses.

While genetically engineered plants have long been controversial in
Europe, the issue erupted in the United States last year when voters in
three California counties banned high-tech crops within their borders.
Those actions have sparked a state-by-state effort to prevent local
governments from enacting similar prohibitions.

"We think local governments have enough problems without having to incur
the costs of regulating an industry monitored by three federal agencies,"
said Ab Basu, who lobbies states for CropLife America, an association
that represents ag-business giants such as BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow
Agrosciences, Monsanto and Syngenta. The U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency already
put limits on genetically modified plants, and farmers do not want
unnecessary and overlapping local laws, he said.

Growers come down on both sides of the issue. Iowa state Rep. Sandy
Greiner (R), a farmer and supporter of her state's new seed law, said the
measure prevents a patchwork of varying regulations within the Hawkeye
State. She notes that states already have jurisdiction over other widely
used agricultural products, such as fertilizer and pesticides.

But Iowa state Rep. Mark Kuhn (D), also a farmer, said local governments
should have the ability to protect growers who worry about contamination
from genetically modified plants, especially farmers trying to meet the
standards for certified organic crops. Kuhn sponsored a failed amendment
to the Iowa bill that would have given counties the right to establish
limited zones prohibiting bioengineered plants.

Some opponents of the high-tech crops also want to preempt local
governments -- by imposing stricter rules against growing those plants.
Rick North, an advocate of the Oregon bill limiting genetically
engineered plants statewide, said that experimental crops would
inevitably contaminate the food supply if they were not properly
controlled. "We don't want drugs ... or industrial chemicals" in our
food, said North, a spokesman for the Oregon chapter of Physicians for
Social Responsibility.

That's a sentiment reflected in the attitudes of many major food and
beverage companies that must ensure the safety of their products to
consumers worldwide. Brewery giant Anheuser-Busch has threatened to stop
buying rice -- a common ingredient for some mass-produced beers -- from
Missouri farmers if the pharmaceutical company Ventria Bioscience is
allowed to plant an experimental variety of that crop in the Show Me State.

"Because Ventria's Pharma rice is not 'generally recognized as safe' ...
it is not appropriate for food consumption, and even if it were,
Anheuser-Busch believes that genetically modified rice should be
segregated from traditional rice varieties to give food manufacturers and
consumers the choice to use such rice," the company stated in written
comments to the FDA.

Riceland Foods Inc., which markets rice, soybeans and wheat grown by
roughly 9,000 farmers in five states, also opposes Ventria's experimental
rice in Missouri, as does the National Food Products Association, which
is the largest trade association serving the food and beverage industry
in the United States and worldwide.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinšckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
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