Douglas veto is divisive
Rutland Herald, May 24, 2006
In vetoing the Farmer Protection Act, which the Vermont Legislature crafted with courage and wisdom, Governor Douglas ignored the real issue.
The real issue is who sets the rules for doing business in Vermont? Is it Monsanto and other purveyors of agricultural seed, or is it the citizens?
The purveyors of genetically modified seeds want rules that restrict parties injured by the seeds from suing them, and that exempt them from liability in Vermont courts.
The governor acknowledged willingness to let corporations write the rules when he conjectured that manufacturers might not sell seed in Vermont under the proposed act. Whom is he kidding? Of course, manufacturers will sell seed into this major market. In fact, at least one seed company urged the governor to sign the act.
The prosperity of Vermont agriculture depends on both strong conventional farms and strong organic farms. Yet the governor wants us to believe that these two types of farmers have competing interests, and that the act divides them.
The governor has it backwards. It is the absence of the protection act that fosters division. Under the manufacturer's rules, a farmer damaged by a neighbor's GE crop is barred from suing the seed manufacturer and has no recourse except to sue the neighbor. So if anything is divisive, it is the governor's veto.
The governor's plan to have Agriculture Secretary Kerr convene organic and conventional farmers to resolve issues about GE seeds under the existing pro-manufacturer rules, has little likelihood of success. Secretary Kerr, like the governor, will let manufacturers write the rules for their business in Vermont. Hence, the Douglas plan is another instance of the fox guarding the hen house.
I urge Vermonters to recognize the true issue in the Farmer Protection Act. Let us not be distracted by Governor Douglas' assertions. And I urge the Legislature to continue its courage and wisdom by overriding the governor's veto.