Monsanto, the super-corporation and a patent holder for genetically engineered crops might have to pay up. The state has put forward House Bill 2739 for consideration, which will make companies like Monsanto liable for any losses due to unwanted contamination by GMO’s. Often their seeds drift onto Non-GM crops affecting their genetic make-up and altering the ecosystem. Many of us are concerned about GM crops and how they affect small-farmers bottom line.
House Bill, 2739 will make the patent holder (i.e., Monsanto) of any genetically engineered organism liable if it is on someone’s land without permission (i.e., Organic farmers). Therefore, if this bill is passed, farmers have grounds to sue Monsanto if a GMO damages a neighboring farmer’s yield. For example, a farmer can take Monsanto to court to pay for their losses if an organic crop is contaminated by a GM seed, and the farmer can no longer sell their crops as “organic,” reducing the value of their yield.
The bill will stop Monsanto from contractually assigning fault to farmers who use their seeds. This is important because Monsanto has a lot of control over the farming industry. It has rooted itself into agricultural infrastructure which means it would have a lot of leverage over small farmers. Therefore, they could use this leverage to force farmers into paying damages from a GM seed.
However, Monsanto is not liable, if someone without their permission deliberately puts seeds somewhere they shouldn’t be. This provision is necessary for stopping people from spitefully putting genetically engineered seeds on farms to give them a reason to sue these corporations.
If this bill passes, Monsanto will be liable if their genetically modified organism causes financial harm to someone. The only situation this isn’t the case is if someone deliberately damages someone’s assets without the permission of Monsanto.
This bill will ensure that Monsanto takes more precautions when selling their seeds, and takes precautions to prevent seeds from blowing into other people’s farms and gardens.
How GM Crops Hurt Farmer’s Wallets
GMO crops usually contaminate healthy food through genetic drift. A process where the wind blows seeds into other farms and alter the ecology of that space.
One problem with GM crops is that they change the genetic make-up of vegetables, assigning proteins that people are allergic to. For example, “a recent study found that people allergic to nuts reacted to GM soybeans into which a protein from a Brazil nut had been inserted.”[i] Due to accidental drift, neighboring Non-GM crops acquire characteristics that people are regularly allergic to. This drift causes problems for consumers as well as farmers who originally had a viable product for this market.
International markets like those in Europe mainly eat non-GMO crops. “The European Union (EU) have banned the import of crops with inserted genes, citing concerns about human health and the environment.”[ii] In 1996, America exported 3 billion dollars in corn and soybeans, which are mostly GM crops. As a result, exports dropped to 1 billion dollars as America started genetically modifying these crops.
These international markets and many domestic consumers demand organic or naturally grown food. Farmers struggle to be GM free certified due to cross-contamination, making it difficult to sell the advantages of their hard work. These should be covered by someone, and Bill 2739 says it should be patent holders, like Monsanto.
Furthermore, genes in Bt corn which kill insects are contaminating plants like milkweed. This is a plant, larvae of monarch butterflies rely on, showing how GMO’s alter ecosystems. Introducing a new lethal gene to the environment can drastically change the makeup of the farm. Fluctuating ecosystems make it hard for the farmer to produce consistently.
Additionally, insects and weeds which do not die off become “superweeds,” and “superbugs.” This is an issue for non-GMO farmers who have to change pesticides, and come up with new techniques to deal with these pests.
Cross-contamination creates financial hardships for farmers who try to grow healthy food for you and your family. They often can’t get the benefits of their effort as it’s sabotaged by contamination. This bill will make Monsanto accountable. Farmers will have a way to recover financial losses when their crops are damaged. [iii]
How Are People in Oregon Responding
The people of Oregon are eager to correct the injustices farmers have felt. Roger Briand calls out the state for “a gross miscarriage of lawmaking for political power and corporate bottom lines,” and he urges counselor Channa Newell that this “needs to corrected.” Monsanto has lobbyists throughout the government pushing for more relaxed laws on GM crops, the people of Oregon want to take a step in a different direction. They want to make Monsanto accountable and give farmers some relief.
An assistant biology professor at the College of Idaho recognizes how “repeated episodes of contamination by genetically engineered plants have cost U.S. farmers billions,” highlighting how important it is that they have some course of action when their crops become corrupted.
The Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association comedically relates cross-contamination to those who house “a dangerous animal, say Cape buffalo, on an inadequately fenced pasture, and the animal should trespass on a neighbor’s property and harm the neighbor or his/her property.” GM crops are dangerous, and there should be repercussions. Their negligence has put many farmers and crops at risk, endangering their livelihoods.
Vegetable growers are also getting vocal Taraza Lawerence an organic farmer is fearful, who writes to Ms. Newell, “I want them away from my fields and I do not want to be forced to have them on my property.” Taraza is on of many, who’s eager to stop the contamination of GM crops.
Farmers need some recourse when corporations like Monsanto damage their livelihoods. People are eager to eat cleaner food, and farmers are struggling to appeal to these people due to unwanted cross-contamination. GMO’s alter their environment forcing them adapt to avoid significant financial losses. This bill will give small farmers trying to produce good food, some leverage, to serve us better, healthier foods.
[i] Kruft D. Impacts of Genetically-Modified Crops and Seeds on Farmers. pennstatelawpsuedu. 2001. Available at: https://pennstatelaw.psu.edu/_file/aglaw/Impacts_of_Genetically_Modified.pdf. Accessed March 31, 2017.
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