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2-Plants: Genetically modified seed sales nearly triple in Vermont(USA)

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

TITLE:  Genetically modified seed sales nearly triple
SOURCE: The Times-Argus, USA, by Darren M. Allen
DATE:   19 Jan 2005

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Genetically modified seed sales nearly triple

MONTPELIER - The amount of genetically altered seeds sold to Vermont
distributors last year was nearly triple the amount recorded two years
ago, the state's agriculture secretary told lawmakers Tuesday.

Almost 460,000 pounds of soybean and corn seeds altered to resist insects
and disease were purchased by the companies who ultimately sell them to
farmers. Two years ago, the amount was just under 170,000 pounds,
according to Steve Kerr, the secretary of agriculture, food and markets.

The rise in sales reported by the major manufacturers of genetically
altered seeds is alarming to many in the organic farming movement, who
fear contamination of their crops by the engineered ones.

It also, according to Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, chair of the
House Agriculture Committee, points to the need for legislation
protecting farmers from the ramifications of using altered seeds.

Such legislation was proposed last year, and actually passed at least
twice by the Senate. The measure would have reduced the liability farmers
face by inadvertently growing altered crops that drifted into their
fields but that the farmer didn't purchase from the seed manufacturer.
But the liability measure faced stiff opposition in the then-Republican
controlled House.

This year will be different, Zuckerman said.

"The use of these seeds is not just one sector of farmers versus
another," said Zuckerman, himself an organic farmer. "It's a discussion
going on within sectors."

The seed report is a compilation of sales figures reported by the
manufacturers themselves. Most states - and the federal government - do
not require such reporting.

Kerr noted that the top three gene-altered seed manufacturers - Monsanto,
Pioneer and Mycogen - account for the overwhelming majority of sales to
Vermont distributors. Two manufacturers - Agri-Culver Seeds and Seedway
Inc. - have not yet filed their sales reports, Kerr said.

The whole issue of genetically modified organisms has taken on
considerable prominence in the past several years in the Legislature. One
of the groups most vocal against the use of GMO seeds is the Vermont
Public Interest Research Group, which yesterday said it was concerned by
the spike in seed sales.

"What's disturbing to us is the size of the increase in just two years,"
said Ben Davis, an advocate for the Montpelier-based group. "Certainly it
makes the task more difficult for people who want to protect themselves
from these crops. And it will continue to be much more daunting with each
passing year."


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