Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance Newsletter - April 2007
Call for Support of AB 541
Assemblymember Jared Huffman 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.
Please register your support for this bill by mailing or faxing a letter to the Assembly Agriculture Committee. A sample letter is provided on our Action Alert page.
THE DEADLINE FOR LETTERS IS APRIL 18TH.
AB 541 protects California farmers and the food supply in four ways:
- Establishes the right of farmers and landowners to compensation for economic losses due to genetic contamination of their crops.
- Protects farmers from being sued by a GE manufacturer if their crop is contaminated by that company’s GE product.
- Establishes a county-level GE crop notification process so that farmers can trace contamination to the GE manufacturer.
- 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.
Each month, we profile a few Alliance members to help you get to know each other, understand why diverse organizations support the GE Policy Alliance, and give you a chance to describe your work. Please contact us if you would like to be featured!
California Certified Organics Farmers (CCOF)
CCOF is an active member of the GE Policy Alliance because we believe it’s important to keep genetically engineered crops out of the environment. Because GMOs are not allowed in organic production, we are concerned about the devastating impact they could have on organic producers. The Alliance is strategic and effective in its work, which is carried out by a corps of dedicated individuals with decades of advocacy experience. I’m honored to be part of this incredible group!
Genetic Engineering News
Bill Would Hold Makers of Engineered Crops Liable for Damage
Excerpted from Associated Press, Feb. 27, 2007
Stepping into the middle of a growing debate, a freshman assemblyman has introduced legislation that would make companies developing genetically engineered crops liable for damages if their work results in contamination of other fields.
The bill by Assemblyman Jared Huffman also would ban open-field production of genetically engineered crops used in the development of medications. And it would require growers to give county agriculture commissioners at least 30 days notice before engaging in open-field development of other genetically modified plants.
Huffman, D-San Rafael, said the measure is needed to protect California farmers against significant losses if their conventional or organic crops are contaminated by genetically engineered plants, seeds or pollen.
He said an incident last year in which an experimental form of rice being developed by a German company showed up in grain elevators in Arkansas and Missouri should serve as a wake-up call for California.
Hundreds of rice farmers in Arkansas, Missouri and Louisiana have filed lawsuits claiming losses because of that contamination.
"It certainly underscores the urgency of taking action before things like that happen here," Huffman said.
The bill would clarify who would be responsible for damages if there was contamination. With some limited exceptions, it would be the seed producer, chemical company or other manufacturer paying for the genetically altered crop rather than the farmer growing it under contract.
"I'm not interested in farmers suing farmers…" Huffman said. "The kind of damage that can occur when cross-contamination does happen can be of a scale where you're not going to be able to make farmers whole unless they can hold the manufacturer responsible."
The measure also would identify who was involved in genetically modified crop production. Right now, no one seems to have a clear idea of how much of that activity is taking place in California.
The bill would prevent the mixing of pharmaceutical plants with other crops by preventing those projects from being conducted in open fields.
"We're seeing food crops being engineered to grow chemicals as an alternative way of producing things like vaccines and antibiotics," Huffman said. "That is fascinating stuff, but obviously you don't want those crops getting into the food supply."
Rice Board Spurns Biotech: State commission worries test plants would cut sales overseas
Excerpted from The Sacramento Bee, March 15, 2007
The California Rice Commission on Wednesday called for a moratorium on experimental plantings of genetically modified rice in the state, saying federal controls meant to keep such varieties from contaminating commercial rice are inadequate.
The decision by the 40-member group meeting in Colusa was driven largely by concerns that the contamination of the state's rice supplies with even a tiny amount of genetically engineered material could devastate sales to touchy export markets such as Japan and South Korea. The commission represents the state's roughly 1,000 rice farmers and processors.
The Rice Commission's stance could put it in a strange-bedfellows situation this year as the Legislature debates a bill that would make firms that produce genetically modified seeds liable for damages if their product contaminates a field.
The state Farm Bureau opposes the bill. But the Rice Commission may find itself fighting for it alongside activist groups such as the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety.
"If the mainstream is against these things, then maybe we aren't mainstream," said rice grower Don Bransford.
Valley Rice Farmers Take a Hard Line: Group wants ban on all bioengineered plantings
Excerpted from The Sacramento Bee, February 20, 2007
A splinter group of more than 200 Sacramento Valley rice farmers is claiming that even experimental plantings of genetically modified rice jeopardize key export markets.
The group, the Rice Producers of California, plans to release today a market study that documents the powerful opposition to such technology in several key export destinations: Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Turkey.
Greg Massa, who farms rice near Chico and is the group’s co-chairman, said he wants a ban on any outdoor planting of genetically modified rice.
Agriculture Department Violated Law, Judge Rules
Excerpted from The New York Times, February 14, 2007
A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Agriculture Department violated the law by failing to adequately assess possible environmental impacts before approving Monsanto’s genetically engineered alfalfa.
Judge Charles R. Breyer of Federal District Court in San Francisco said the agency had been “cavalier” in deciding that a full environmental impact statement was not needed because the potential environmental and economic effects of the crop were not significant.
Excerpted statement from the Judge’s decision (Geertson Seed Farms, et al. v. Johanns, Docket No. 06-1075, Feb. 14, 2007)
“…for those farmers who choose to grow non-genetically engineered alfalfa, the possibility that their crops will be infected with the engineered gene is tantamount to the elimination of all alfalfa; they cannot grow their chosen crop.