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Farmer to Farmer Campaign
calls on state Attorney's General
to learn from Starlink debacle

Farmers call for long-term solutions to protect farmers

Columbia, Missouri

Near Bosworth, Missouri. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
Farmland near Bosworth, Missouri. Photo by Nic Paget-Clarke.
Family farm groups participating in the Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture are calling on their state Attorneys General, who are on the front line of the GE debate, to fill a policy vacuum caused by national inaction. Today marks the one-year anniversary of the release of the Farmer's Declaration on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture. For the past year, farm groups have been expanding the farmer voice on genetic engineering.

Farmers point to StarLink as a prime example of how our current segregation and marketing systems are not able to deal with the complex issues that genetic engineering pose. "While USDA has aggressively promoted biotechnology in agriculture, they have done virtually nothing to address farmer liability issues or to ensure that farmers are adequately protected under current industry contracts" said Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) President and Chillicothe farmer Bill Christison.

Groups from eight key farm states are calling on Attorneys General to promote possible legislation to place liability on companies that develop and patent GE seeds. Farmers are asking Attorneys General to investigate the marketing of GE seeds and the rapid corporate concentration of seed companies and suppliers. MRCC members met with Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon Friday, November 17.

Howard County farmer Rhonda Perry met with Nixon last week. "Farmers are rapidly losing valuable export markets because of the challenges imposed on farmers by the entire biotech industry. Attorneys General need to move beyond responding to short-term crises such as the Starlink debacle and initiate long-term actions to create farmer protection for liability.”

"The full extent of farmers' legal liability resulting from growing and marketing GMO crops is unclear. What is clear is that farmers may face substantial liability for violations of GMO contracts, contamination of neighbors' crops, or infringement of the companies' patents," said Lynn Hayes, an attorney with the Farmers Legal Action Group. "Before planting GMO crops farmers should fully understand their responsibilities and evaluate the risks of potential liability."

Organizations working in collaboration on the Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign are asking state Attorneys General to:

  • Issue Attorneys General Opinions on the extent to which farmers and/or seed companies are liable for damages caused by GMO contamination of non-GMO crops; failure to segregate GMO crops; GMO contract violations; and patent, licensing, and registration infringements.

  • To support legislation that places liability on companies who develop and manufacture GMO seeds for all economic and environmental damages caused by these products.

  • To investigate GMO marketing practices in their states to determine whether farmers are properly advised of the liability risks and their responsibilities associated with growing GMO crops, and the adequacy of segregation procedures at all stages of the marketing chain to ensure compliance with requirements for the various domestic and export markets.

  • To participate in meetings with farmers to inform them of the legal issues related to production and marketing of GMO crops.

  • To investigate whether companies developing, manufacturing, and marketing GMO's are violating antitrust laws and issue a legal analysis of the impacts of concentration.

Farm groups participating in this multi-state strategy are members of the Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture, a collaborative effort among family farm organizations to add the family farmer’s voice to development of policies related to genetic engineering. The Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) is a member of the Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering.

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Published in In Motion Magazine December 3, 2000.