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Indiana legislator takes effort to protect farmers from GMOs all the way to Texas

(Aug. 13, 2001 – CropChoice news) – As CropChoice reported last week (It’s an Indiana effort to protect farmers’ interests; www.cropchoice.com/leadstry.asp?RecID=394), Indiana state legislator Bill Friend traveled to San Antonio, Texas yesterday for the National Conference of State Legislatures. He had hoped for passage of resolutions protecting farmers from market rejection of transgenic crops.

Instead, he pulled his resolution from the Agriculture and International Trade Committee of the Conference rather than risk its defeat.

Friend’s resolution read: "Measures should be taken so that new genetically engineered seeds for food and feed purposes are held from the distribution chain until substantially accepted by major foreign buyers as determined by USDA and certified by the secretary of agriculture."

The biotechnology and food processing companies were out in force, said Friend, noting that at least eight Monsanto and four Pioneer representatives had come to tell committee members why Friend’s resolution would be bad for their business.

Apparently heeding those concerns, the 18 committee members, representing as many states, claimed that the resolution would restrict research and development and that the European Union would have veto power over the development and marketing of new crops.

They remained unconvinced when Friend, Kansas State University agricultural lawyer Roger McEowen, and other experts said that European consumers already hold such power if they choose not to buy U.S. agricultural products.

Sensing defeat in a vote, which had already happened to a resolution addressing competition in the farming industry (monopoly power), Friend pulled the resolution from consideration. For passage, a measure must have the support of 75 percent of the committee members who are present.

"No one is speaking up for the little guy," Friend said. "No one is speaking for the farmer. Without those federal subsidies, lots of farmers would be gone. That shouldn’t be the path we choose to stay on. The American taxpayer, through congressional subsidy, is paying for R and D on biotech crops. The biotech companies make all the money. The farmer gets to touch it. It goes into his back account, but then they write a check to the biotech-chemical-seed companies" at the beginning of the season.

Friend plans to modify his resolution and introduce it again at the December 2001 meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures.