California farmers are one step closer to gaining liability protection for the contamination of their crops by patented genetically modified seeds or pollen, thanks to a bill passed by the California Assembly at the end of January. AB541 would provide a contamination testing protocol and shield non-GM-using farmers against liability from seed companies for unintentional contamination.
The bill was originally much more extensive. But "there was no way it was going to pass," because the California Farm Bureau wasn't behind it, and the biotech companies are usually behind the farm bureau, said Rebecca Spector, West Coast director for the Center for Food Safety, which supported the bill. But after two months of stakeholder meetings, a few points were agreed upon, and the bill now awaits California Senate approval.
Spector explained that because the bill has the approval of the farm bureau, it is very likely to pass the entire legislature, as opposed to others that have failed because of opposition from the biotech industry. "In California, it's the first time we've worked together," she said. "But it's not a big solution—it's a very small step in the right direction."
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIX/number 3/p. 18