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Farmers to Attorney General Hatch: We Need Protection From GMOs

AG in agreement with LSP that GMO companies should be liable for damage caused by genetically engineered seed

Contact: Jim Riddle, farmer, Winona, 507-454-8310
Paul Sobocinski, farmer, Wabasso, 507-342-2323

—Farmer-members of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) met with Attorney General Mike Hatch today to explain their concerns over genetically modified organisms. Chief among LSP’s concerns are making sure that the manufacturers of products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are held liable for contamination of non-GMO crops.

“The companies who produce and sell GMO seeds created the problem and they should be held liable,” said LSP member and Winona-area farmer Jim Riddle. “These companies create a product they know will trespass onto the fields of farmers who don’t want it and then try to walk away from responsibility when there is a problem. After all, they are the ones profiting from this mess.”

LSP commended Attorney General Hatch on the strong action he has taken to protect farmers who planted StarLink corn, and encouraged him to take further action to protect farmers who find themselves in the midst of an agricultural system contaminated by GMOs. The Attorney General agreed that more needs to be done to protect farmers.

“I’m very concerned about how these GMO seeds are being marketed, the contracts farmers planting them are signing and who should be liable for the loss GMO contamination causes,” said Hatch, “We want to see that Minnesota farmers are protected and that liability is placed where it belongs.”

LSP met with Attorney General Hatch as part of the Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering. This is a collaborative effort among family farm organizations in eight states to promote the farmer perspective on genetic engineering. Besides Minnesota, farmers from South Dakota, Montana, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Vermont are participating in this campaign. Family farm groups in each of these states are calling on their respective Attorneys General to fill a policy vacuum caused by national inaction.

“The full extent of farmers’ legal liability resulting from growing and marketing GMO crops is unclear,” said Lynn Hayes, an attorney with the Farmers’ Legal Action Group, which also participated in Tuesday’s meeting with Attorney General Hatch. “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. Before planting GMO crops, farmers should fully understand their responsibilities and evaluate the risks of potential liability.”

Organizations participating in the Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign are asking state Attorneys General to:

• Issue legal 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.

• Support legislation that places liability for all economic and environmental damages caused by GMO seeds on companies who develop and manufacture them.

• 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.

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

• Investigate whether companies developing, manufacturing and marketing GMOs are violating antitrust laws, and issue a legal analysis of the impacts of concentration.

In Minnesota, the Attorney General’s office has been asked to examine the state rules and permitting procedures that regulate GMO crops.

The Land Stewardship Project is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to fostering an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promoting sustainable agriculture and to developing sustainable communities. LSP has offices in the Minnesota communities of Lewiston and Montevideo, as well as the Twin Cities.

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 ©Land Stewardship Project, 2001

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