Share The Wealth by Chris Gupta
January 31, 2006

Genetic Pollution of Seed, Feed and Food­-Can We Afford to Bet the Farm?

"If we default on pesticide-free crops now, we may not have another opportunity to save our farmland and our locally produced food."

(Listen to an 45 minute audio interview about GM Contamination and Accountability with Professor Cummins and Dr. Luise Light here.)

Here is a perfect example of how industrial lobbing creates "legal protections shielding manufacturers" hence those who can attend please do and spread this to those in the said area... Sorry for the very short notice...

"The meeting of the conference committee of the Vermont Legislature on the provisions of The Farmer Protection Act on the Strict Liability provision of the bill is scheduled for February 1, 2006, at 4 pm, at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelior, VT, in Room 10. There will be one hour of testimony (already scheduled), half in support of strict liability, and half opposed."

Chris Gupta

See also:

US Firms Lie About GM Crops

GM foods Marketing Tricks


Genetic Pollution of Seed, Feed and Food­Can We Afford to Bet the Farm?
January 31, 2006

By Luise Light

This week, the conference committee of the Vermont State Legislature will invite public testimony on a provision of Senate Bill 18, known as the Farmer Protection Act. Why should you and I care about this issue which, on the face of it, would seem only to be of interest to farmers? The "Strict Liability" provision of the bill would enable Vermont farmers who lose their crop as a result of pesticide "drift" to sue manufacturers for compensatory damages. Currently, a farmer's only recourse is to sue the farmer who does the spraying, if he can be found and proven responsible, a high burden of proof.

The reason you and I who aren't farmers should care about this issue is because it hits us in the stomach. According to Cornell University's cooperative extension service, many of the synthetic pesticides used in agriculture are now known to be environmentally persistent and toxic to humans, animals, and plants. The use of crops genetically modified (GM) to be herbicide-tolerant has given rise to two kinds of pesticide pollution, says Professor Joe Cummins, a geneticist who is a world-renowned expert on the effects of GM crops on health and the environment, and a member of the board off the British Institute of Science in Society.

One type of genetic pollution of our food results from the spread of pollen or seeds by wind, animals and farm equipment used for harvesting and transporting corn, soybeans, cotton or canola seeds. A second type is from the drift of chemical herbicides in aerosol sprays used to control weeds. In the case of the former (genetic pollution via spread of GM seeds), it remains unresolved legally who is responsible for such damages. There is more "case law" for determining who is liable for negligent use of chemicals but courts have been hampered by myriad regulations. Both types of pollution should be subject to community-based regulations but in no case is that possible now, says Cummins, either because of legal protections shielding manufacturers or because of the failure of courts to understand the technical complexities.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports there are more than 2000 spray drift incidents reported annually to state regulatory agencies and insurance companies. Spray drifts contaminate farmers' crops and cause illegal residues and crop damages. EPA's primary efforts to prevent or mitigate damage consists of requiring better pesticide labeling and better training of those who apply the pesticides. While labeling of pesticides include cautions about use, the agency has never addressed "aerial spraying" even though drift from aerial applications pose far greater risks than ground spraying.

Most of the GM crops grown worldwide are designed to be resistant to chemical herbicides. The herbicide Roundup, the most widely used, is sprayed aerially on fields sown with GM seeds designed to be Roundup-tolerant. Roundup is capable of damaging other food crops that have not been genetically engineered to withstand their toxic effects.

Spray drift impacts both crops and weeds causing damage to germination, seeds, and growth characteristics of plants. Crops such as soybeans and rice that are not genetically modified sustain crop damage and show lower yields even at low concentrations. A second type of impact is loss of biodiversity-- the elimination of wildlife. The reported disappearance of frogs worldwide is considered an example of pesticides affects on species survival.

Just this month, a case brought before the Superior Court of Ontario, Canada, Lockrey versus Hayter, dealt with a spray drift incident involving a consortium of farm corporations and a local farmer growing pickling onions. The corporate farmers, it was claimed, in spraying their GM soybean fields with the herbicide Roundup allowed drift over the 75-acre onion fields of the local farmer, causing destruction of his onion crop. The judge in the case issued an eloquent and well-written judgment, finding for the onion farmer and awarding him $92,000, the full cost of his losses.

In Vermont, passage of the Farmer Protection Act would enable a local farmer who experiences damage to his non-GM crops as a result of aerial pesticide drift to sue the manufacturer. Isn't that preferable to bringing suit against a farmer who may not be aware of the potential damage to the farms of their friends and neighbors?

Whatever you think of the benefits of GM crops, we have more acreage devoted to organic crops in Vermont than in any other state of the Union, and many farmers grow pesticide-free, specialty crops like the Canadian farmer's pickling onions. Right now, however, without adequate protections for these farmers, they and their farms and farm products are at risk. Organic crops that have been contaminated by GM crops have been losing their markets both nationally and internationally. For example, the canola farmers in Saskatchewan have lost their international market due to GM contamination. Needless to say, this has had a huge financial impact on the canola farmers. In response to the losses incurred because of GM contamination, the canola farmers in Saskatchewan have launched a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and Bayer. Can we afford to let farmers (both organic and conventional) lose the battle against GM seeds on the ground as well as in the courts?

If we default on pesticide-free crops now, we may not have another opportunity to save our farmland and our locally produced food.

(Luise Light, MS, EdD is a nutritionist, writer and Village official in Vermont. Her new book, What to Eat; The Ten Things You Really Need to Know to Eat Well and Be Healthy (McGraw-Hill) is in bookstores now. To learn more about Dr. Light and her book, visit:


posted by Chris Gupta on Tuesday January 31 2006

URL of this article:



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Readers' Comments

Step back and take a picture of the whole horizon! Do not pass this HR4167!

Posted by: Amanda on February 24, 2006 01:32 PM


Step back and take a picture of the whole horizon! Do not pass this HR4167!

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