The Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act establishes a set of farmers’ rights in regards to genetically engineered organisms and the business practices of biotech companies.
The intent of the act is:
To provide additional protections for farmers and ranchers that may be harmed economically by genetically engineered seeds, plants, or animals, to ensure fairness for farmers and ranchers in their dealings with biotech companies that sell genetically engineered seeds, plants, or animals, to assign liability for injury caused by genetically engineered organisms, and for other purposes.
The act prohibits several practices that have become common in contracts with biotech companies. For instance:
- Purchasers of genetically engineered seed will not be prohibited from saving seeds for next year’s crop and will not have to pay a fee to save seeds.
- Liability for any damage done by the genetically engineered organism will not be shifted to the farmer.
- Farmers will not have to allow biotech companies access to their property.
- If a genetically engineered product does not perform as advertised, the purchaser will able to recover damages.
Biotech companies will be required to provide written instructions on how to grow the genetically engineered crop in such a manner as to avoid cross-pollination. Conventional farmers who want to sell their crops to places that prohibit genetically engineered food and organic growers will benefit from this provision.
Pest-Resistance to Natural Pesticides
Bt pesticides are a useful tool in an organic farmer’s pesticide arsenal. Bt is a naturally-occurring bacteria that kills many crop pests.
Engineering crops to produce Bt toxins is common among biotech companies. Pest insect resistance to Bt could damage a large segment of the non-biotech farming community.
The act requires biotech companies to formulate a plan to prevent resistance to Bt.
H.R.3555 also includes a prohibition on loan discrimination against farmers who don’t want to adopt biotech in their fields, a prohibition on non-fertile plant seeds (the terminator gene), and mislabeling. It’s a short bill, so please read through it.
Where is the Bill Now?
Right now, the act is sitting in three committees: House Judiciary, House Agriculture, and House Energy and Commerce.
The Genetically Engineered Technology Farmer Protection Act was submitted with two co-sponsors.
- Rep. Raul Grijalva [D, AZ-7]
- Rep. Fortney Stark [D, CA-13]
You might want to give your representative a call or write them a letter to let them know how you feel about the bill. Writing your elected representatives is the best way to get this bill noticed and moving through these committees.
Find your elected representative.
Image by Ken Lund, used with Creative Commons license.