EXTRACT: Currently, farmers with crops that become contaminated by patented seeds or pollen have been the target of harassing lawsuits brought by biotech patent holders, particularly Monsanto.
California Legislature Passes Bill Protecting Farmers Against Monsanto Lawsuits
First State Bill Regarding Genetically Engineered Crops
Awaits Governor's Signature
PRESS RELEASE, The Genetic Engineering Policy Project
August 31 2008 - A landmark piece of legislation protecting California's farmers from crippling lawsuits was passed through both legislative houses this week in an end-of-session flurry. The Senate voted 23 - 14 to support it, and the Assembly was unanimous in their support. The bill, AB 541 (Huffman, D-Marin/Sonoma), is now headed to the Governor's desk for his signature. Sponsored by diverse organizations, some of whom are traditionally opposed on farm issues, AB 541 is the first bill passed by the California legislature that brings much-needed regulation to genetically engineered (GE) crops.
"I am very pleased that my office, working with the stakeholders on both sides of this historically divisive issue, was able to find common ground and pass California's first legislation on genetic engineered crops," stated Assemblymember Huffman. "While there is still work to be done on other aspects of genetic engineering, AB 541 is an important step in establishing basic protections for California's farmers."
AB 541 enacts protections against lawsuits brought against California farmers who have not been able to prevent the inevitable - the drift of GE pollen or seed onto their land and the subsequent contamination of their non-GE crops. Currently, farmers with crops that become contaminated by patented seeds or pollen have been the target of harassing lawsuits brought by biotech patent holders, particularly Monsanto. The bill also establishes a mandatory crop sampling protocol to prevent biotech companies that are investigating alleged violations from sampling crops without the explicit permission of farmers.
AB 541 has the support of organizations traditionally on opposite sides of the GE issue, and its sponsors are confident that the Governor will sign it. The bill was sponsored by a thirteen-member coalition including Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Earthbound Farm, California Certified Organic Farmers, United Natural Foods Inc., as well as California Farmers Union and the California Farm Bureau, and several others.
"AB 541 is a move in the right direction," stated Renata Brillinger, director of the Genetic Engineering Policy Project, the coalition of organic and conventional farmers, food industry, environmental, and faith organizations sponsoring AB 541. "It provides much needed protection for farmers who typically lack the resources to fight lawsuits brought by biotech conglomerates."
A copy of the bill can be downloaded at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov
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Many thanks to the co-sponsors of AB 541 for their funding, advocacy, strategic, legal, and moral support over the past two years it has taken to win this bill.
Their commitment to this issue, and to protecting farmers and the integrity of California agriculture, is one of the reasons we are on the verge of having California's first progressive GE law.
The Genetic Engineering Policy Project is a lobbying coalition of the following organizations and businesses:
California Certified Organic Farmers
California Church IMPACT
Center for Food Safety
Center for Environmental Health
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Ecological Farming Association
Good Earth Natural Foods
Occidental Arts Ecology Center
Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Co-op
Pesticide Action Network North America
United Natural Foods, Inc.
NOTE: More good news from the US. This is a major step forward. California's is the 8th largest economy in the world.