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Farmers could face lawsuits because of contracts preserving manufacturers' rights

By KRISTIN COLLINS, Staff Writer

A farmer whose pollen drifts on the wind from his cornfield to a neighbor's could face a lawsuit from a multinational corporation.
A farmer who saves his own seed and plants it the next year, as many have done for generations, could also be sued.

These are real risks for the thousands of North Carolina farmers growing genetically modified crops, such as soybeans, corn and cotton plants that have been bred to withstand weed killers, according to a new report from farm advocacy groups.

"Farmers are signing contracts, but we're finding that many people have no idea what the small print says," said Michael Sligh, policy director of the Pittsboro-based Rural Advancement Foundation International. "We see it as a trend toward the reduction of farmers' rights."

Sligh's foundation, along with Farmers Legal Action Group based in St. Paul, Minn., released a report outlining the terms under which genetically modified crops are grown.

More than 90 percent of soybeans grown in North Carolina are genetically modified, Sligh said. He estimated that half of the state's cotton, and a lesser percentage of corn, is also genetically modified.

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