GMO seed bill gets veto from Douglas

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(Host) This afternoon, Governor Jim Douglas vetoed the GMO seed bill.

Douglas says he rejected the legislation because he thinks it will hurt the state’s agriculture industry.

But backers of the bill say the veto will hurt Vermont’s emerging organic farm community.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Jim Douglas) “So I will sign the message that I’ll send to the Secretary of the Senate later this afternoon rejecting the bill.


(Kinzel) With the stroke of his pen, Douglas signed the veto message and blocked implementation of one of the most controversial bills of the session.

Douglas vetoed the legislation at a dairy farm in Fairfield on a gray and windy afternoon surrounded by more than 100 farmers.

The legislation would have allowed organic farmers to sue the manufacturers of genetically engineered seeds if the seeds from a nearby farm drifted onto their land and caused more than 35 hundred dollars in damage to their crops.

Standing in front of a large dairy barn, Douglas said he had a lot of problems with the bill:

(Douglas) “It dives into new legal territory that may only promote needless litigation pitting farmers against farmer and neighbor against neighbor. It may also burden seed manufacturers and local distributors with greater business risk that will if the history of commerce is any guide be passed on to our farmers in the form of higher prices or restricted access to genetically engineered seeds I can’t endorse that outcome by signing this bill.”

(Kinzel) Bill Bushey helped organize a bus load of farmers from Addison County to come to the event.

(Bushey) “We have a great concern from the organic people versus the commercial dairymen and I think that split seems to be widening gets wider and wider and it’s too bad we need to spend more time trying to coexist and working for a common goal.”

(Kinzel) About a mile from the veto ceremony, a group of farmers who support the bill criticized the governor’s actions.

Lyle Edwards has been a dairy farmer in Westfield for over 30 years:

(Edwards) “This bill is to head off a problem. This bill is in case there is an accident, what do you do someone has to pay. There is a liability issue and somebody has to pay. So the question is who does the paying? And you still want to have coexistence anyhow because everybody needs to live together and get along. So that’s just a given they’re just separating the issues out.”

(Kinzel) Lawmakers will now come back to the Statehouse on Thursday June 1st for a special veto session. It will take a two thirds majority in each chamber to override the governor’s veto. Most political observers doubt the governor will lose this fight.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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