Press Release

States Remain At Forefront of Efforts to Address Emerging Agricultural Biotechnology Issues

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A new fact sheet and Web database released today by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology reveals states continue to be active in addressing emerging issues raised by agricultural biotechnology. During the 2001-2002 legislative session, 158 pieces of legislation related to agricultural biotechnology were introduced in 39 states. Twenty-eight percent of introduced legislation addressed concerns about violent protest against agricultural biotechnology; eighteen percent of introduced legislation addressed rights and responsibilities of farmers and biotech seed producers by establishing liability for damages caused by misuse of genetically modified (GM) crops or by regulating agricultural contracts.

"In the 2001-2002 legislative session, states simultaneously worked to protect and promote agricultural biotechnology while they grappled with defining legal responsibilities for the use--and possible misuse--of genetically modified crops and seeds," said Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. "As more products are introduced, the issues generated by agricultural biotechnology will only become more complex. State legislators will continue to be called upon to help constituents reconcile the growth of an important technology with the conflicts that often accompany technological change."

The fact sheet, entitled "2001-2002 Legislative Activity Related to Agricultural Biotechnology" chronicles and catalogs state and federal legislative activity relating to agricultural biotechnology in 2001 and 2002. It is accompanied by Legislation Tracker, a database that archives legislation, ballot initiatives and some town hall resolutions introduced in 2001-2002 legislative sessions. These items update a similar fact sheet and database prepared last year on state legislative activity in 2001.

Highlights of the research include:

  • Of the 158 pieces of legislation introduced in state legislatures, only 45 passed.  
  • Sixty-seven percent of legislation that passed dealt with willful destruction of agricultural products and the remaining 33 percent dealt with a breadth of issues including labeling of GM foods, liability and agricultural contracts, and regulation of GM crops.  
  • Hawaii and New York introduced the most legislation, respectively generating 23 and 19 pieces. But North Dakota, which passed five bills, created the most laws related to agricultural biotechnology.

The database, Legislation Tracker, can be used to sort data and create a variety of useful lists including overviews of:

  • All legislation related to agricultural biotechnology submitted in the 107th Congress (2001-2002).  
  • All legislation related to agricultural biotechnology sorted by state, topic or bill status (i.e. passed or defeated).  
  • An overview of ballot initiatives and town hall resolutions related to agricultural biotechnology initiated in select states since 2000.