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Vermont Senate Passes Historic Law to Protect Farmers from GMO Contamination

GE Free VT Media Release: Wednesday March 10, 2004

Vermont Senate on GMOs: Unanimous YES on Farmer Protection Act.
Vermont Bill is first-in-the-nation to hold biotech corporations accountable
for contamination by genetically engineered crops.

Montpelier, VT< Vermont Senators voted 28-0 Wednesday to support the Farmer
Protection Act (S.164), a bill to hold biotech corporations liable for
unintended contamination of conventional or organic crops by genetically
engineered plant materials. This historic decision was peppered by debate on
the patent laws that allow biotech corporations like Monsanto to sue farmers
for patent infringement who are contaminated with GMO pollen or plant
materials. Senator Vincent Illuzzi (R-Essex-Orleans) dramatically
illustrated cross-pollination of corn varieties with multi-colored ears of
Vermont corn. Today¹s vote comes after 79 Vermont towns have passed Town
Meeting measures calling on lawmakers in Montpelier and Washington enact a
moratorium on GMOs, and 10% of Vermont's conventional dairy farmers have
pledged not to plant the crops. Vermont joins Mendocino County, CA at the
forefront of domestic resistance to genetically engineered crops.

"The Farmer Protection Act is a pre-emptive strike to stop predatory
lawsuits against Vermont¹s family farmers by biotech companies like
Monsanto," said Ben Davis with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.
"Today the Vermont Senate took the first step to defend family farmers from
these kinds of intimidation suits and the hazards of genetically engineered
crops." VPIRG is among a coalition of groups including Rural Vermont,
Institute for Social Ecology, and Vermont Genetic Engineering Action Network
who are spearheading the grassroots campaign for the first "GE Free" state
in the union.

"Big biotech corporations are writing the rules in their own interests at
the national and international level, and using their patented GMOs as a
tool to contaminate and control farmers," said Doyle Canning, a campaigner
with the GE Free VT campaign. "Vermont is showing that a little state can
make a big statement against corporate greed and work towards a Time Out on
this technology. We are working in concert with the folks in Hawaii,
Mendocino County, and in the 30 nations around the world where GMO crops are
stringently regulated, to put farmers first."

Today's Farmer Protection Act was amended with an 18-11 vote to include
language specifically targeting genetic engineering patent lawsuits "The
Sears-Illuzzi amendment defines Ogenetically engineered seeds or plant
parts" as different from conventional seeds or plant parts. This is
unprecedented and undermines the industry's claim that GE products are the
same as traditional products," said Amy Shollenberger, Policy Director at
Rural Vermont. "The amendment says that a person who is found to have Otrace
amounts' of genetically engineered material shall be indemnified by the
manufacturer if they are sued. In other words, it protects a farmer from
being sued by the manufacturer if the farmer's crops are contaminated with
GMO material." Tomorrow Shollenberger and 10 other GE Free VT supporters
will testify to the House Agriculture Committee 9 AM-11:30 AM on a related
bill on Genetically Engineered Crops.

The GE Free Vermont Campaign on Genetic Engineering is a statewide coalition
of public interest groups, businesses, concerned citizens and farmers, who
are organizing to oppose genetic engineering at the local, state and
national level, and calling for a ³Time Out² on GMOs. For more information:
www.gefreevt.org

Contact: Amy Shollenberger, Rural Vermont 802.793.1114
Doyle Canning, GE Free VT 802.279.0985