A bill introduced into the Oregon legislature this year would allow non-GMO farmers to sue biotech patent holders over trespass by their GMO crops if their crops drifted on to their farms.
Supporters of House Bill 2739 say it’s a common sense strategy to remedy problems caused by genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, similar to consumer lawsuits over defective products.
“This is not a wild legal grab. We will not be compensated for our angst. We will only be compensated for provable legal damages,” said Sandra Bishop of the Our Family Farms Coalition, which supports HB 2739.
Jerry Erstrom, a Malheur County farmer, said he supports the bill even though he’s planted genetically engineered corn on his property.
Creeping bentgrass that’s genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate herbicides escaped control in Eastern Oregon, and the crop’s patent holder should be responsible for control costs as it spreads, he said.
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HB 2739 survived a legal hurdle in April:
House Bill 2739 would allow landowners to sue biotech patent holders for the unwanted presence of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, on their land.
The bill has now been referred to the House Rules Committee, which isn’t subject to an April 18 legislative deadline that recently killed other proposals.
The move could effectively allow HB 2739 to stay alive through the end of the 2017 legislative session, scheduled to end in late June. (Source.)
Oregon Non-GMO Farmers Have Much To Lose from Cross-Contamination with GMO Crops
Back in 2013 Oregon wheat farmers took a hard hit to their wheat exports after an Oregon farmer found unapproved GMO wheat growing on his farm. Several countries suspended their import of American wheat from the U.S. Northwest that year.
In 2014 Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber directed the state’s agriculture department to chart where genetically modified crops were grown in an effort to protect the state’s organic and non-GMO industry. But the effort met stiff opposition from biotech companies.
In 2014 citizens of Jackson County Oregon voted to ban altogether the growing of GMO crops in their county. After a lengthy legal battle by GMO farmers, a federal judge ruled in 2016 that the GMO ban should be withheld.