17 February 2000
GM growers could be sued

By Isabel Davies

FARMERS growing GM crops run the risk of being sued because other farmers cannot insure against any harm caused by GM technology.

Friends of the Earth is warning farmers that they will not be able to get insurance cover against the possibility of pollution from GM crops.

The environmental campaigners are urging government to sort out the issue of liability after they discovered the NFU Mutual would not offer cover.

Pete Riley, biotechnology campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: “In the headlong rush to get GM crops in our fields and GM foods on our plates, the crucial issue of liability has been ignored.”

“The government must act and tell us who is going to pick up the bill if this new technology damages peoples livelihoods or the environment.”

Lincolnshire farmer Peter Lungren, who tried to get cover but was told it was not available, said anyone thinking of growing GM crops should think again.

“It seems that it will be left to individual farmers to sue their neighbours if their crops get contaminated with GM pollen.

“This will be extremely divisive and do little to foster harmony in rural areas.”

Labour MP Alan Simpson, whose GM Food and Producer Liability Bill had a second reading in the House of Commons this week, insisted liability should be with industry.

“The Bill I have presented to the House places liability where it should be – with the biotechnology companies.

“It protects other companies in the food chain, including farmers, from claims against them for harm caused by the biotechnology industry.

“This is a fair and reasonable legislation that the Government should support in the absence of an international protocol or EU legislation.”

NFU Mutual spokesman Tim Price said the whole insurance industry had adopted a standard exclusion clause for damage caused by gradual pollution.

“This means no insurer provides insurance cover for the risk of GM crop contamination.”

Farmers considering taking part in trials should ensure that the company involved takes full responsibility for the crop and any liability claims.