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S.18

AN ACT RELATING TO LIABILITY RESULTING FROM THE USE OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SEEDS AND PLANT PARTS

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  SHORT TITLE

This act shall be known and may be cited as the Farmer Protection Act.

Sec. 2.  FINDINGS; PURPOSE 

The general assembly finds that agriculture is a central and vital component of our state's economy.  Vermont has a unique, national reputation for producing high quality crops, and its agricultural heritage is dependent on maintaining this reputation.  Vermont is a leading producer of organic crops.  Vermont’s economy is also dependent on tourism that results from maintaining the state’s reputation as a state with a pure and preserved natural environment.  Genetically engineered crops have been shown to be dispersed into the environment, including through pollen drift, seed mix‑ups, inadvertent transfer of seeds by humans and animals, and extreme weather events.  The liability for the effects of genetically engineered crops has unfairly fallen on farmers who do not plant genetically engineered crops as well as farmers who do plant genetically engineered crops, and it can be expected that the liabilities associated with the growing of genetically engineered crops in Vermont will be passed by the manufacturer to the grower of the crop and farmers who do not plant genetically engineered crops.  Genetically engineered crops cannot be successfully segregated from crops that are not genetically engineered in current agronomic science, agricultural practices, and agricultural infrastructure.  Therefore, it is the purpose of this act to ensure that farmers are not harmed by this technology and to place the liability for any harm on the manufacturer of the genetically engineered crops.

Sec. 3.  6 V.S.A. chapter 35, subchapter 3 is added to read:

Subchapter 3.  Liability Resulting from the Use of

Genetically Engineered Seeds and Plant Parts

§ 650.  DEFINITIONS

As used in this subchapter:

(1)  “Genetically engineered crop” means a crop grown from genetically engineered seed as defined in subdivision 641(9) of this title or genetically engineered plant part as defined in subdivision 641(10).

(2)  “Injury” includes:

(A)  loss of any price premium that would have accrued to a farmer by contract or other marketing arrangement or that would have been otherwise reasonably available to the person through ordinary commercial channels;

(B)  any reasonable additional transportation, storage, handling, or related charges or costs incurred by the contaminated farmer that would not have been incurred in the absence of crop contamination;

(C)  any judgment, charge, or penalty for which the farmer of nongenetically engineered products is liable because of breach of contract, including loss of organic certification.

§ 651.  LIABILITY FOR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM GENETICALLY

             ENGINEERED CROPS

(a)  The manufacturer of a genetically engineered seed or plant part is liable to any person who has suffered injury by the release into Vermont of a genetically engineered crop produced from such seed or plant part.  The prevailing plaintiff in an action under this subsection may recover compensable damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and other litigation expenses. 

(b)  The liability created by this section may not be waived or otherwise avoided by contract or other means other than insurance.

(c)  A manufacturer shall have an affirmative defense to liability under this section if:

(1)  the farmer acted in gross negligence to cause the release of the genetically engineered crop that resulted in injury;

(2)  the farmer had received and signed a contract with the manufacturer;

(3)  the farmer had received a training manual from the manufacturer; and

(4)  by following the manufacturer’s contract and training manual, the farmer would not have caused injury through the use of the genetically engineered crop.

(d)  A farmer who is not in breach of contract for the purchase or use of genetically engineered seeds or plant parts and unknowingly comes into possession or uses such seeds or plant parts as a result of natural reproduction, cross-pollination, or other contamination shall not be liable for any injuries, claims, losses, and expense, including attorney’s fees, caused by the use of a genetically engineered seed or plant part.

§ 652.  SEED CONTRACTS GOVERNED BY VERMONT LAW

(a)  A seed contract for the purchase of seeds or plant parts in Vermont is governed by the laws of Vermont.  If a seed contract purports to choose the laws of a jurisdiction other than Vermont to govern the contract, such provisions of the contract are void and unenforceable. 

(b)  The venue for an action under this subchapter shall be in the county in which the injury is alleged to have occurred.

§ 653.  LIMITATION OF ACTION

An action brought pursuant to this subchapter shall be brought within three years after the cause of action accrues and not after.


Sec. 4.  SEVERABILITY

If any provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid or in violation of the constitution or laws of the United States, the invalidity or the violation shall not affect other provisions of this act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end, the provisions of this act are severable.




Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us