MONTPELIER, VT - March 10 - Vermont Senators voted 28-0 Wednesday to support the Farmer Protection Act (S.164), a bill to hold biotech corporations liable for unintended contamination of conventional or organic crops by genetically engineered plant materials. This historic decision was peppered by debate on the patent laws that allow biotech corporations like Monsanto to sue farmers for patent infringement who are contaminated with GMO pollen or plant materials. Senator Vincent Illuzzi (R-Essex-Orleans) dramatically illustrated cross-pollination of corn varieties with multi-colored ears of Vermont corn. Todays vote comes after 79 Vermont towns have passed Town Meeting measures calling on lawmakers in Montpelier and Washington enact a moratorium on GMOs, and 10% of Vermonts conventional dairy farmers have pledged not to plant the crops. Vermont joins Mendocino County, CA at the forefront of domestic resistance to genetically engineered crops.|
The Farmer Protection Act is a pre-emptive strike to stop predatory lawsuits against Vermonts family farmers by biotech companies like Monsanto, said Ben Davis with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. Today the Vermont Senate took the first step to defend family farmers from these kinds of intimidation suits and the hazards of genetically engineered crops. VPIRG is among a coalition of groups including Rural Vermont, Institute for Social Ecology, and Vermont Genetic Engineering Action Network who are spearheading the grassroots campaign for the first GE Free state in the union.
Big biotech corporations are writing the rules in their own interests at the national and international level, and using their patented GMOs as a tool to contaminate and control farmers, said Doyle Canning, a campaigner with the GE Free VT campaign. Vermont is showing that a little state can make a big statement against corporate greed and work towards a Time Out on this technology. We are working in concert with the folks in Hawaii, Mendocino County, and in the 30 nations around the world where GMO crops are stringently regulated, to put farmers first.
Todays Farmer Protection Act was amended with an 18-11 vote to include language specifically targeting genetic engineering patent lawsuits The Sears-Illuzzi amendment defines genetically engineered seeds or plant parts as different from conventional seeds or plant parts. This is unprecedented and undermines the industrys claim that GE products are the same as traditional products, said Amy Shollenberger, Policy Director at Rural Vermont. The amendment says that a person who is found to have trace amounts of genetically engineered material shall be indemnified by the manufacturer if they are sued. In other words, it protects a farmer from being sued by the manufacturer if the farmers crops are contaminated with GMO material. Tomorrow Shollenberger and 10 other GE Free VT supporters will testify to the House Agriculture Committee 9 AM-11:30 AM on a related bill on Genetically Engineered Crops.
The GE Free Vermont Campaign on Genetic Engineering is a statewide coalition of public interest groups, businesses, concerned citizens and farmers, who are organizing to oppose genetic engineering at the local, state and national level, and calling for a Time Out on GMOs. For more information: www.gefreevt.org