Critics claim liability bill would banish GMOs from Oregon
The amendment would also ensure that patent holders cannot transfer liability to farmers who cultivate GMOs, though they could transfer liability to seed companies.
"It's putting the onus on the producers and people who sell these crops rather that grow them," said Amy van Saun, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety, a non-profit that supports HB 2739.
By making patent holders liable for unwanted GMO presence — either through cross-pollination or seed dispersal — the bill reduces potential conflicts among farmers, said Elise Higley, executive director of the Our Family Farms Coalition, which supports HB 2739.
"We don't believe the GE farmer should be held responsible when they follow all the rules," Higley said during a May 23 legislative hearing.
Biotech crops have "tracer genes" to identify patent holders, eliminating confusion about the source of an unwanted GMO, she said. "There's no arguing about it. It's just black and white science."
Critics of HB 2739 believe the underlying goal of the proposal is to stop production of GMOs in Oregon.
For developers of genetically engineered crops, the risk of lawsuits would likely outweigh the benefits of licensing biotech traits to growers in the state, opponents say.