Tester managed to remove the law, known as the Monsanto Protection Act, from the Wednesday-night bill that ended the government shutdown and raised the federal debt limit.
The law repeatedly had been inserted into bills since March in an attempt to prevent federal courts from banning the planting of genetically modified crops like corn, sugar beets and soybeans, which have in the past faced legal challenges from opponents arguing they might not be safe.
"I just think we don't need to rush into these things," said
Archer farms winter wheat. Grain organizations have been urging biotech companies to create a wheat variety that is drought resistant and maximizes its use of fertilizer.
Farmers like Archer worry about eventually not having a choice about whether to use genetically modified crops. They also worry about being sued for patent infringement should a genetically modified crop turn up in their field, through cross pollination or other reasons.
Farmers using genetically modified crops have turned silent to avoid criticism from both consumers concerned about eating genetically modified foods and environmentalists worried about contamination from biotech plants.
However producer groups favoring genetically modified crops sided with biotech companies like
Roundup Ready alfalfa was taken off the market for a few years while a lawsuit over its safety played out.
There also were attempts to ban farmers from planting Roundup Ready sugar beets and later from harvesting the beets. The farmers prevailed in the sugar beet cases, but the thought of being prevented from harvesting a crop for profit because of a lawsuit frightened some.
The main concern for biotech companies is time. Patents are good for 20 years, which includes the years the crops are being developed in the laboratory. Once on the market, the profitable years for a genetically modified crop can be eaten away by legal challenges.
Tester said his concern with the Monsanto Protection Act was that it prevented the
European and Asian buyers of American crops have placed bans on some GMO foods. A step that endangers those markets should be challengeable in court, with a judge having the power to prevent damage in the field.
"The customer is always right regardless of what people say," Tester said. "
Most of the legal battles over GMO crops have centered on whether the
Tester said that given the new traits GMO crops introduce to the environment, environmental impact studies make sense.
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