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GM rice 'sold illegally in China'; other news

(Friday, April 15, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. GM rice 'sold illegally in China'
2. EU set to ban US maize feed after GM scare
3. Beer Giant Says It Won't Buy Genetically Modified Rice
4. Monsanto Seeks Brazil Soy Royalties: Seed Company Wants to Prevent Farmers Saving Seeds
5. Agribusiness Targets State Legislators to Pre-empt Local Laws on Seeds
6. New Study Reveals Thousands of Field Tests of Genetically Engineered Crops Across the U.S.
7. [Oregon] Senate considers 'biopharm' crops ban: Lawmakers mull temporary halt to growing biologically engineered foodstuffs

1. GM rice 'sold illegally in China'

BBC, April 13, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4440817.stm

The environmental group Greenpeace says genetically modified (GM) rice is being sold in China even though it has not been approved for public consumption.

The group said the rice was being sold in markets in central Hubei province and it may have contaminated exports.

A Greenpeace spokesman said the government was in effect experimenting on the Chinese people.

Chinese government scientists told the BBC they were unaware of any illegal sales of GM rice.

Pesticide

China has been testing genetically modified rice for years and is expected to approve a strain for commercialisation soon.

Greenpeace says it made the discovery after interviewing farmers and seed companies and testing rice samples from the area.

Liu Haiying, programme director for Greenpeace in Beijing, said campaigners bought rice and seeds containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a pesticide.

He said GM rice was being sold at markets in Wuhan and a nearby suburb, and in two cities in Hubei.

Greenpeace campaigner Sze Pang Cheung said the genetic engineering industry was "out of control".

"A small group of rogue scientists have taken the world's most important staple food crop into their own hands and are subjecting the Chinese public to a totally unacceptable experiment," he said.

'Strict standards'

Professor Zhen Zhu, a government scientist at the Institute of Genetics Development Biology, in Beijing, told the BBC he was not aware GM rice was being sold illegally.

He said experiments involving GM rice in China meet international safety standards.

Prof Zhen acknowledged that cross-pollination from GM crops could have contaminated other paddy fields but, he said, measures had been taken to prevent this.

China is a major exporter of rice. Greenpeace warned the modified crop could have reached other countries, including Japan and South Korea, large consumers of GM foods.

Greenpeace urged the Chinese government to recall unapproved GM rice and investigate how it came to be sold.

2. EU set to ban US maize feed after GM scare

Bruno Waterfield, EU Politix, http://www.eupolitix.com/EN/News/200504/9f014809-1421-430b-b458-73b67a71d3fb.h tm

The EU has moved closer to a ban on US maize-based animal feeds after Europe's governments demanded that imports be certified free of unauthorised GM crops.

EU member states on Tuesday agreed unanimously to proposals requiring that all corn feed shipments from the US are guaranteed not to contain the unauthorised GM maize BT10.

The move is likely to lead to a de-facto ban on EU imports of US maize-based animal feed by the European Commission later this week.

A corn gluten feed trade worth Euro 347 million a year could be now be hit after shipments of unauthorised GM crops were exported from the US.

The dispute centres on BT10, a biotech animal feed manufactured by Swiss company Syngenta, sold to the US and exported to the EU without approval.

The European Commission is to ask that each shipment is accompanied with an analytical report - a measure that would halt all imports for weeks.

"Exports of corn gluten feed from the US which are accompanied by this analytical report would be allowed to enter the EU, but without this analytical report they would not be allowed to enter the EU," an EU source told Reuters.

"We're talking about a measure which would say that exports of corn gluten feed essentially should be certified, should be accompanied by an analytical report by an accredited laboratory certifying that these exports are free of Bt-10."

EU health and consumer protection chief Markos Kyprianou has stressed the need for tests that can detect, and thus prevent, unauthorised GM entering Europe.

"Kyprianou continues to emphasise the importance of detection methods," said a commission spokesman on Tuesday.

Existing detection methods are modelled to test products for authorised GM not unauthorised or experimental crops.

"We have detection methods for GMOs that are authorised. We do not have one for this GMO because it is unauthorised," said the commission spokesman.

Syngenta is still developing reliable detection methods for BT 10 and workable tests are not expected for another two weeks.

Any possibility of certifying imports would depend on the agribusiness giant providing EU authorities with a BT10 test.

Although just 1000 tons of BT10 affected product was imported into the EU, the row raises questions about the Europes ability to manage GM crops.

Brussels is angry over the incident which has damaged the authority of the EU's controversial, and already discredited, authorisation procedures.

Syngenta insists BT10 poses no threat to human health and is very similar to BT11, another genetically modified corn strain - already approved by the EU.

Friends of the Earth has attacked the companys secrecy over BT10 and the GM crops antibiotic resistance gene.

"The failure of Syngenta to provide the basic information needed to test for their contamination is a disgrace," said a spokesman.

"The commission must insist that this secrecy ends and Syngenta sets up a fund to pay for testing. The polluter must pay, not the public."

3. Beer Giant Says It Won't Buy Genetically Modified Rice

By Carey Gillam, Reuters

KANSAS CITY, Mo., (April 12) - Missouri rice farmers and critics of biotech crops planned to gather in Columbia, Missouri, on Tuesday to protest a California company's plans to plant genetically modified rice in their state.

St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Inc. , one of the nation's biggest rice buyers, has threatened to boycott Missouri rice if Ventria Bioscience wins regulatory approval to plant biotech rice in the state.

Currently, biotech crops including soybeans, corn and cotton are primarily used for food, feed and fiber. Ventria's rice would be used to make drugs.

Some Missouri farmers worry that the Ventria rice would mix in with their edible crops and make it difficult to sell. Missouri rice has a total value of about $100 million annually and accounts for about 5 percent of the U.S. rice crop.

Sacramento, California-based Ventria is seeking regulatory approval to plant about 150 acres of rice in Missouri that has been genetically altered to produce lactoferrin and lysozyme -- substances used pharmaceutically for digestive problems.

"We feel like it has to be stopped," said Chris Williams, a board member of the Missouri Rice and Research Merchandising Council. "It has the potential of crippling our industry."

Anheuser-Busch, the No. 1 U.S. brewer, has filed a comment with U.S. regulators opposing Ventria's proposal, citing food safety concerns.

"Given the potential for contamination of commercial rice production in this state, we will not purchase any rice produced or processed in Missouri if Ventria introduces its pharma rice here," the company said in a press statement.

Missouri farmers said other food companies would likely follow suit, and export markets would close for Missouri rice farmers. The state exports rice to more than 30 different foreign markets, all of which require the rice be free from genetic modification.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt supports Ventria's plans and the company has forged a partnership with Northwest Missouri State University to pursue plant research and development. Its application for field trials is pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Groups hoping to halt the project were holding a public forum Tuesday in Columbia to criticize Ventria's plans. The forum is sponsored by the anti-GMO group Friends of the Earth.

"There is no way you'll keep this out of the food supply," said Bill Freese, Friends of the Earth spokesman. "It is outrageous to risk the welfare of Missouri rice farmers for the sake of a small biotech company that will probably not produce anything of value."

Ventria officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but supporters of the project have said the biotech rice fields would be well-contained and would not contaminate conventional rice.

4. Monsanto Seeks Brazil Soy Royalties: Seed Company Wants to Prevent Farmers Saving Seeds

Dow Jones, 4/13/05

SAO PAULO -- In an effort to safeguard royalties from its genetically modified RoundUp Ready soybeans, U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto will seek to continue charging Brazilian farmers on delivery of soybeans, a company lawyer told Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday.

In March, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed off on a biosafety bill, which is expected to lead the way to the legalization of the use of Monsanto's GMO seeds in the 2005-06 season (October-September).

The new law would allow Monsanto to charge royalties on seed sales as it does in the U.S. However, the company anticipates some farmers will continue to use seeds that are produced on the farm or bought illicitly. These farmers will still be expected to pay on delivery of their soybean crop.

"We will seek to ensure these farmers respect Monsanto's intellectual property rights," said Luiz Henrique do Amaral of the Dannemen Siemens practice, who is working with Monsanto on the royalty issues.

Brazil's crop law allows farmers to reproduce seeds for their own use without payment of royalties. However, Monsanto argues that royalties are guaranteed under Brazil's patent laws.

"We have had success enforcing this in the south and expect to continue," said Amaral, referring to a number of legal victories against farmers contesting royalties in the south of the country.

Brazilian farmers have been using RoundUp Ready soybeans smuggled in illicitly from neighboring Argentina over the past five years. Such was the extent of GMO use in the south of the country that the government decided to legalize GMO production and sale in 2002 but didn't allow seed production.

Faced with the prospect of legal action, farmers in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul agreed to pay royalties at 0.60 Brazilian reals ($1=BRL2.57) per 60-kilogram bag last year and royalties at 1 percent of revenues for the current 2004-05 crop and for the 2005-06 crop.

"It is better that we pay as we know that the trading companies would deduct the royalty charge anyway," said Carlos Sperotto, president of the Rio Grande do Sul farmers federation, in a recent interview.

Monsanto has pressured the major trading firms and exporters into supporting their plan by threatening to have their shipments impounded at foreign ports if it has proof they contain illicit soybeans.

"Anyone who tries to wriggle their way out of this is going to be broken," said Amaral.

Brazil is the world's No. 2 soybean producer after the U.S. Somewhere between 21 percent and 26 percent of Brazil's soybean crop was RoundUp Ready in 2004-05, according to a survey by the local agricultural consultancy Celeres.

In Argentina, the government has reacted angrily to Monsanto's plan to charge royalties on soybean exports due to the high incidence of illicit use of RoundUp soy planting, fearing Monsanto's Brazil plan will be imposed on Argentina.

The Argentine Agricultural Secretariat is attempting to garner support for rejection of the proposal from the Brazilian Agriculture Ministry. However, while Agriculture Minister said it feels royalties should be charged on seeds, he recently told Dow Jones that the payment of royalties was a matter for farmers and seed producers to decide.

Monsanto received a boost in its attempt to charge after harvesting when Paraguayan farmers settled in March.

For the current season, Monsanto hopes to close royalty accords with producers from the Brazilian states of Piaui, Bahia and Mato Grosso do Sul and has already reached an agreement with Santa Catarina producers. Since seed production was illegal this season, Monsanto will exclusively charge on delivery of the soybeans.

These states produce little GMO soy. The other state with a large amount of GMO planting is Parana, the No. 2 soybean state behind Mato Grosso. However, the state government's anti-GMO stance is making negotiations difficult there, said Amaral.

5. Agribusiness Targets State Legislators to Pre-empt Local Laws on Seeds

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 14, 2005

Contact: Brian Tokar, Biotechnology Project Director, Institute for Social Ecology, Vermont, (802) 229-0087 briant@sover.net; Britt Bailey, Director, Environmental Commons, California, (707) 884-5002; britt@environmentalcommons.org; Stephanie Weisenbach, Sustainable agriculture advocate, Iowa, (515) 556-4873 iowacleanwater@yahoo.com

Legislators in eight states have passed bills preventing counties, towns and cities from introducing ordinances, resolutions, or other legislation relating to agricultural seeds. These seed pre-emption bills are an orchestrated industry response to recent local actions on genetically modified organisms. For example, ballot initiatives in three California counties have prohibited the cultivation of genetically modified crops, livestock, and other organisms, and nearly 100 New England towns have passed various resolutions in support of limits on genetically engineered crops.

"Pre-emptive seed laws serve the agribusiness industry by weakening local laws and precluding the introduction of stronger protections in the future," said Britt Bailey of Environmental Commons. "They are industry's stealth response to a growing movement of people that are seeking to protect their communities at the local level."

"Over the past several years in Iowa, we've seen local control be taken away for the benefit of the corporate hog industry," said George Naylor, an Iowa farmer and President of the National Family Farm Coalition. "With this seed pre-emption legislation recently signed into law, we are now losing our ability to protect ourselves from irresponsible corporations aiming to control the agricultural seeds planted throughout the state."

In the past decade, the same preemptive strategy has been used by the tobacco industry and the National Rifle Association to thwart local efforts to introduce more stringent smoking and gun laws, respectively. As Tina Walls of Phillip Morris & Co. admitted, "By introducing preemptive statewide legislation, we can shift the battle away from the community level back to the state legislatures where we are on stronger ground."

See attached backgrounder (online at http:// www.environmentalcommons.org/seedlawbackgrounder.html ) for contacts, resources, and discussions of:

  • Why this is a challenge to local rights.
  • Who is behind this strategy of state pre-emption.
  • Why this is a matter for wide public concern.
  • What the legal precedents are for local action.

-

Background: Agribusiness Industry Passing State Laws to Pre-empt Local Initiatives on Genetically Modified Organisms

As of April 12th, legislators in twelve states have introduced bills that would override local and county measures relating to the registration, labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, or use of agricultural seeds. These bills have already been signed into law in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota, and are rapidly working their way through the legislatures in Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, and West Virginia. Similar bills in Indiana and Kansas have passed both houses of the legislature and are awaiting the governor's signature. Additionally, the Maine Department of Agriculture is seeking to forestall local action around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) via an overreaching interpretation of the state's 'Right to Farm' Law. For a continually updated tracking of seed pre-emption legislation, see http://www.environmentalcommons.org/gmo-tracker.html .

Why this challenge to local rights?

Since 2002, towns, cities and counties across the US have passed resolutions seeking to control the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within their jurisdiction. Close to 100 New England towns have passed resolutions opposing the unregulated use of GMOs; nearly a quarter of these have called for local moratoria on the planting of GMO seeds. In 2004, three California counties, Mendocino, Trinity and Marin, passed ordinances banning the raising of genetically engineered (GE) crops and livestock. Advocates across the country believe that the more people learn about the potential hazards of GE food and crops, the more they seek measures to protect public health, the environment, and family farms. They have come to view local action as a necessary antidote to inaction at the federal and state levels.

Who is behind this strategy of state pre-emption?

These pre-emption bills are being introduced by state legislators who support large-scale industrial agriculture, and are often funded by associated business interests. These bills are mainly supported by Agribusiness Councils and Farm Bureau chapters in the various states. They represent a back-door, stealth strategy to override protective local measures around GMOs.

The industry proposal for a "Biotechnology state uniformity resolution" was first introduced at a May 2004 forum sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC claims over 2000 state legislators as members and has more than 300 corporate sponsors, according to People for the American Way (see Resources). The organization has its origins in the efforts of political strategist and fundraiser Paul Weyrich to rebuild a Republican power base at the federal and state levels in the aftermath of Watergate. Other recent measures supported by ALEC include efforts to deregulate electric utilities, override local pesticide laws, repeal minimum wage laws, limit class action lawsuits and privatize public pensions.

The tobacco and handgun industries have mounted similar efforts in recent years to circumvent local smoking ordinances and restrictions on handgun use. Ironically, many of the interests now promoting state pre-emption have vociferously opposed federal regulations designed to pre-empt weaker state laws.

Why is this a cause for wide public concern?

Local governments have historically overseen policies related to public health, safety, and welfare. Preventing local decision-making contradicts the legitimate and necessary responsibilities of cities, towns, and counties. Traditionally, laws enacted at the state level have set minimum requirements and allowed for the continued passage and enforcement of local ordinances that establish greater levels of public health protection. Preemptive legislation reverses this norm.

Furthermore:

  • Pre-emption undermines democracy and local control, and is a threat to meaningful citizen participation around issues of widespread concern. Communities enact local measures as an expression of their fundamental right to shape their future, whereas wealthy corporate interests are far better able to wield power and influence policy in state capitols.
  • Local actions around GMOs, in particular, are designed to address important gaps in federal and state policy, and mitigate potentially serious threats to public health, the environment, and survival of local farm economies. Additionally, some communities are taking a further step, and benefiting economically from the positive effect of becoming known as "GE-Free," supporting farmers and the local food system by promoting organic and sustainable agriculture in their jurisdictions.
  • In recent years, similar local measures have sought to address a variety of industry practices not adequately regulated at higher levels of jurisdiction, including pollution from factory farms, use of sewage sludge as fertilizer, uncontrolled pesticide use, and mismanagement of water resources. The current pre-emption campaign is part of a strategy aimed to weaken all such protective measures; it is part of a well-funded, highly-orchestrated, and frequently stealthy corporate effort to rewrite public policies at all jurisdictional levels.

What are the legal precedents for local action?

According to the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, local measures to restrict the use of GMOs are generally on a sound legal footing:

  • Local rights of self-governance and protection of health, safety and well-being are guaranteed by most state constitutions. Local governments are free to be more protective of their citizens and unique communities than lowest-common-denominator state laws can provide.
  • The federal government does not have specific mandatory safety testing requirements for most GE crops, instead allowing companies to voluntarily determine what tests are needed; also there is virtually no monitoring of commercial GE crops for persistent hazards.
  • No state has yet enacted comprehensive regulations governing GE crops and livestock that protect public health and the environment.

Historically, American custom and tradition has granted local communities considerable autonomy. Local sovereignty has its foundation in the Town Meetings of colonial New England. While some states have come to view local jurisdictions as creations and agents of the state, others endow municipalities with varying degrees of "home rule," an established legal principle with origins in the 19th century.

Town Meetings and subsequent local decision-making procedures are further rooted in Common Law, which has hinged on the traditional maxim, "Use your property as not to injure another's." Harmful activities affecting the public commons, such as over-cutting timber or spreading noxious weeds, have traditionally been restricted in the name of the greater public good.

For more information:

Britt Bailey, Environmental Commons, (707) 884-5002, britt@mcn.org

Brian Tokar, Institute for Social Ecology, (802) 229-0087, briant@sover.net

Renata Brillinger, Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, (415) 561-2523, renata@oaec.org

Peter Jenkins, Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359, peterjenkins@icta.org

LaVon Griffieon, Sixth-generation Iowa family farmer, (515) 964-0876, xxvhrsaday@aol.com

George Naylor, National Family Farm Coalition, (515) 370-3710, moonbean@wccta.org

6. New Study Reveals Thousands of Field Tests of Genetically Engineered Crops Across the U.S.

http://www.texpirg.org/TX.asp?id2=16756&id3=TX&

For immediate release, 4/13/05

More than 47,000 field tests of genetically engineered crops were authorized by the Department of Agriculture between 1987 and 2004 despite serious environmental threats and inadequate regulations in place to monitor their impacts, according to a new report released today by TexPIRG. 1494 of these field test sites are located in Texas. Crops tested include corn, cotton, rice and potato.

Although USDA has yet to amend its regulations after being excoriated by the National Academy of Sciences for inadequate expertise, PIRG's analysis reveals a large increase in crops engineered to produce pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals as well as large numbers of experiments of crops never tested before.

The report, Raising Risk: Field Testing of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., highlights potential risks associated with the release of genetically engineered plants. The results of large scale field trials conducted over many years were just published in the March 2005 Proceedings of the Royal Society demonstrating adverse effects on wildlife, but experiments conducted in the United States continue to be piecemeal and short term. Scientists have criticized research in this country as deliberately designed to hide any harm.

"Our environment is being used as a laboratory for widespread experimentation on genetically engineered organisms with profound risks that, once released, can never be recalled," said Field Organizer Bill Blome. "Until proper safeguards are in place, this unchecked experiment should stop."

Findings of the new TexPIRG report include:

- As of January 2005, the fourteen states and territories that have hosted the greatest number of field test sites are: Hawaii (5,413), Illinois (5,092), Iowa (4,659), Puerto Rico (3,483), California (1,964), Nebraska (1,960), Pennsylvania (1,707), Minnesota (1,701), Texas (1,494), Indiana (1,489), Idaho (1,272), Wisconsin (1,246), Georgia (1,051), and Mississippi (1,008).

- Since 1991, USDA has received 240 requests for 418 field releases of crops engineered to produce pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, or other so-called biopharmaceuticals; the number of requested field releases of "biopharm" crops increased from 22 in 2003 to 55 in 2004.

- Nearly 70% of all field tests conducted in the last year now contain secret genes classified as "Confidential Business Information," which means that the public has no access to information about experiments being conducted in their communities.

- The ten crops authorized for the greatest number of field releases are corn, soybean, cotton, potato, tomato, wheat, creeping bentgrass, alfalfa, beet, and rice.

- USDA authorized field tests on several crops for the first time in 2003 and 2004, including American chestnut, American elm, avocado, banana, eucalyptus, marigold, safflower, sorghum, and sugarbeet.

These experimental genetically engineered crops are grown in the open environment to test the outcome and environmental impact of certain gene combinations. The group charged that field testing genetically engineered crops in such a widespread way poses serious threats to the environment and neighboring farmers.

According to Joan Gundermann, owner and operator of Gundermann Farms, local organic farmers are increasingly concerned about their livelihoods. "As an organic farmer, I have to be able to certify that my crops meet certain criteria. The risk of pollen drift means that I might not be able to sell my crops. If I can't sell my crops, I can't stay in business‚§"that's the hard reality."

"Any new technology must be tested, but there are important scientific issues that must be addressed before genetically engineered foods can be released into the environment even in the context of testing," said Bill Blome. "To conduct field tests before this has been done is both premature and hazardous. It's like carrying out clinical trials of a drug before the laboratory tests are complete."

A major goal of the field tests is to obtain information about potential ecological risks associated with genetically engineered organisms. However, independent reviews of the data collected by the Department of Agriculture demonstrate that very little information has been gathered. As a result, despite the large number of field experiments that have occurred, fundamental questions about their impact remain unanswered, including long-term impacts on the soil and nontarget species.

"The evidence continues to mount that the U.S. regulatory system is based on the principle of 'don't look, don't find,'" said Blome. "Conducting field tests that are poorly designed is taking large risks without any benefits."

TexPIRG has called for a moratorium on genetically engineered foods unless:

- Independent testing demonstrates safety,

- Labeling for any products commercialized honors consumers' right to know, and

- The biotechnology corporations are held accountable for any harm resulting from the products.

For More Information: Stephanie Carter (512) 479-0388 Bill Blome (713) 933-22

7. [Oregon] Senate considers 'biopharm' crops ban: Lawmakers mull temporary halt to growing biologically engineered foodstuffs

NIKI SULLIVAN
Associated Press
http://www.gazettetimes.com/articles/2005/04/09/news/oregon/sat03.txt

SALEM - Lawmakers are considering a temporary ban on growing food crops in Oregon that are biologically engineered to produce drugs or chemicals, such as vaccines.

Supporters of the bill say it would protect Oregon farmers from potentially harmful crop contamination. Opponents say the bill is an attempt to ban biologically engineered crops in general.

Oregon would become the first state to ban the crops, called biopharmaceuticals or biopharms, under a bill that was brought up for its first hearing Friday in the Senate Environment and Land Use Committee.

Currently in Oregon, genetically modified bentgrass is grown in Central Oregon and several varieties of insect-resistant corn are commercially available for farmers to grow.

But biopharm crops are a different type of genetically modified organism that represent a small percentage of U.S.-grown biologically engineered plants.

To create the crops, genes from other organisms are spliced into the plant - usually corn - that prompt it to produce the desired chemical compound, such as an anticoagulant or vaccine.

None are currently grown in Oregon, but the ban would prevent pharmaceutical companies from looking to put fields here.

"Plant species grown for use as food for humans or animals should not be grown to produce drugs and industrial chemicals," said Chris Schreiner, quality control director for Oregon Tilth, Inc., a nonprofit organization that certifies organic farms.

Schreiner compared biopharm crops to DDT, a chemical used more than 30 years ago because it was found to be toxic to humans and animals. Schreiner said the effects of DDT could have been avoided if the chemical wasn't "widely promoted and used prior to our full understanding of their toxic effects."

The bill would not ban growing other genetically modified organisms, but some warned that biopharm crops could contaminate food crops and have other unforeseen biological consequences that would tarnish the image of Oregon-grown foods.

"There is too much potential for leakage of these genes into the human food supply," said Bitty Roy, a biology professor from Eugene.

Roy said the risks and benefits of such crops needs to be more carefully studied before they are grown in the open air.

But others said the bill could cut off future economic benefits for Oregon's farms and research facilities, and that the federal government should create policy instead of a patchwork of state laws.

"This is a science discussion and these crops need to be grown under the best management practices," said Katie Fast of the Oregon Farm Bureau, but she said there's no reason to ban the crops altogether.

She said the bill could negatively affect Oregon's research facilities by prohibiting them from growing experimental crops that could be medically beneficial.

Katie Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said the agency has no official position on the bill, but that "it's important to remember that biopharming is regulated in the U.S. by the federal government," and that new guidelines are expected in one to two years.

She also said biopharm crops are "not the scary stories that we've heard," and said an example could be genetically enhancing a tomato to provide more health benefits.