A proposed law would treat biotech companies as “trespassers” when their GMO crops creep onto neighboring organic farms
A proposed law in Oregon would flip the script on biotech companies whose genetically modified crops contaminate neighboring farms.
In the past, companies like Monsanto used to sue organic farmers for “stealing” their patented seeds, when they would turn up growing on their farms, even though the farmers never wanted the GM crops in the first place and faced huge financial losses from the contamination.
But if House Bill 2739 passes, farmers would be the ones in the plaintiff seat in the court room, rather than defendants.
It would essentially treat biotech patent holders like Monsanto as “trespassers” on the farmers’ property and would allow them to sue for up to three times the amount of damages incurred by the crop contamination.
The law would “allow cause of action against patent holder for genetically engineered organism present on land without permission of owner or lawful occupant,” states the summary of the bill.
“This is not a wild legal grab,” Sandra Bishop of Our Family Farms Coalition told the East Oregonian.
“We will not be compensated for our angst. We will only be compensated for provable legal damages.”
Contamination from GMOs can completely ruin farmers’ livelihoods, points out the non-profit organization Farm Aid.
Not only are they subject to lawsuits by biotech companies, the run the risk of losing their USDA “organic” certification, being rejected from export markets that ban GMOs, and being overwhelmed by the herbicide and pesticide-resistant weeds and insects that often plague GM crops.
Complicated searches for a culprit won’t be necessary, since biotech traits can be determined with genetic tests, says Elise Higley, director of Our Family Farms Coalition:
“It’s super easy to track it back to who is responsible.”
Another bill before the Oregon state legislature — House Bill 2469 — would allow local governments to ban the cultivation GMO crops from entire towns and counties.
Currently, both bills are stuck in committee. Contact Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and tell her to bring them to the floor for a vote, so Oregonians can see who stands where on this important issue.