SEED MAKERS’ LIABILITY SOUGHT:

April 18, 2005

The Vermont Senate has approved a bill that would make seed manufacturers rather than farmers liable for damages from genetically modified crops. The measure is designed to help farmers recover losses from the accidental spread of genetically modified crops, supporters say. “The purpose is to establish some legal protection for Vermont farmers,” said Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor.

The Vermont Senate has approved a bill that would make seed manufacturers rather than farmers liable for damages from genetically modified crops. The measure is designed to help farmers recover losses from the accidental spread of genetically modified crops, supporters say. “The purpose is to establish some legal protection for Vermont farmers,” said Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor.

The bill applies so-called “strict liability” to seed manufacturers, making them responsible for damages their products cause even if they are found to be not at fault.

Opponents, including Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr, who said he would urge the governor to veto the bill, say strict liability is inappropriate for GMOs. Sen. Wendy Wilton, R-Rutland, who opposed the bill, worried that the strict liability standard may drive manufacturers to stop selling GMO seeds in Vermont. If consumers buy seeds from other states and plant them in Vermont, they could end up being liable, she said. “Right now I think there’s lots of problems in this bill that may result in farmers really not being protected and that’s my big concern,” Wilton said.

Supporters suggested that the bill is not about the safety of GMOs but is instead about the legal issues surrounding them. “This is not about whether GE seeds are good or bad. It’s about lawsuits and the liability that people face,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington.

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Insurance Journal West April 18, 2005
April 18, 2005
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