Assemblymember Jared Huffman (6th AD) has introduced AB 541, The Food and Farm Protection Act. The bill would establish California’s only state laws related to genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture and protect California farmers, consumers, and the food supply. AB 541 already has the support of many agricultural, environmental, health, faith and business organizations.

Please register your support for this bill by mailing or faxing a letter to the Assembly Agriculture Committee. A sample letter is provided below.

For more information on this issue, read a copy of the full text of the bill.
A sample letter of support for AB 541.

OVERVIEW OF AB 541

The State of California has no policies regulating GE crops, and the federal government is failing in its oversight role. Given this regulatory void, eight counties attempted to pass local restrictions on GE crops, four of which now have county bans or moratoria on GE crop production in place. In the 2005/06 legislative session, biotechnology and agribusiness interests sponsored a bill that would have pre-empted local authority over GE, but failed due to a groundswell of opposition from grassroots organizations, citizens, and elected officials around the state. AB 541 will put in place a coherent policy that addresses the risk of GE contamination, without banning any GE crop.

AB 541 protects California farmers and the food supply in four ways:

  1. Establishes the right of farmers and landowners to compensation for economic losses due to genetic contamination of their crops
  2. Protects farmers from being sued by a GE manufacturer if their crop is contaminated by that company’s GE product.
  3. Establishes a county-level GE crop notification process so that farmers can trace contamination to the GE manufacturer
  4. Protects the food supply by prohibiting the open-field cultivation of genetically engineered food crops used to produce drugs and biologics such as hormones and antibiotics.

To read a longer summary of the issue, please refer to the Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance Position Paper.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Register your support for AB 541 by sending a letter to the Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, the Honorable Nicole Parra. A sample letter is included below, though it is best to include your own statements and perspectives if possible.

Letters can be sent by fax to (916) 319 – 2184
or by regular mail to the address in the letter below.

It is very important that Assemblymember Huffman’s office also receive a copy of your letter. Please send a copy for their records Attn: Rebecca Darling.

SAMPLE LETTER

[date]

The Honorable Nicole Parra
Chair, Assembly Agriculture Committee
1020 N Street, Room 362
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: AB 541 (Huffman) SUPPORT

Dear Assemblywoman Parra and Members of the Committee:

I am writing in support of AB 541, The Food and Farm Protection Act. [Describe your organization, company, or farm here if applicable].

Currently, California has no laws in place to address the issue of genetic engineering, yet citizens across the state have expressed concerns about the risks the technology presents for farmers, consumers, the economy and the environment. This bill represents a reasonable, responsible and moderate way forward, without banning the technology or restricting choice.

AB 541 importantly establishes the right of farmers and other landowners to recover damages if their property is contaminated by GE crops, and it places the responsibility for the economic harms that arise where it belongs with the manufacturer, the owner of the GE seed or plant. The bill also protects farmers from liability if they unknowingly become contaminated and use the contaminated crop. Farmers who are victimized by genetic contamination should not have to fear legal reprisals.

AB 541 also establishes a GE crop notification process where farmers and researchers growing GE crops report the growing of their crops to their county Agriculture Commissioners. As with other useful agricultural statistics and notification requirements, this would provide Agriculture Commissioners with the knowledge of the presence of GE crops within their jurisdiction and enable the state to keep track of how many acres of which GE crops are produced in each county.

Finally, AB 541 protects the food supply by implementing a ban on the open-air production of food crops genetically engineered to produce drugs. No one wants experimental hormones, vaccines or antibiotics in the food they serve their family. The drugs being researched are all currently produced using safe, controlled laboratory methods, and there is no need to risk the contamination of our food.

I urge you and the Assembly Agriculture Committee to consider this issue carefully, and vote to support AB 541. It will be a vote in favor of farmers, Californians and the environment.

Sincerely,

[name, title, organization or business]

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