Urging to prohibit tax incentives for "pharma" crops

This letter was sent to the following Washington state legislators on the Senate Rules Committee, and Senate Ways and Means Committee:

Sen. Dale Brandland
Sen. Lisa Brown
Sen. Mark Doumit
Sen. Tracey Eide
Sen. Luke Esser
Sen. Darlene Fairley
Sen. Bill Finkbeiner
Sen. Rosa Franklin
Sen. Karen Fraser
Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen
Sen. Mike Hewitt
Sen. Jim Honeyford
Sen. Ken Jacobsen
Sen. Stephen Johnson
Sen. Adam Kline
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles
Sen. Linda Evans Parlette
Sen. Margarita Prentice
Sen. Craig Pridemore
Sen. Marilyn Rasmussen
Sen. Debbie Regala
Sen. Pam Roach
Sen. Phil Rockefeller
Sen. Mark Schoesler
Sen. Harriet Spanel
Sen. Val Stevens
Sen. Pat Thibaudeau
Sen. Joseph Zarelli

March 2, 2006

Dear Senator :

I'm writing to urge you to sponsor and support a floor amendment to SHB 2640, "Providing biotechnology product and medical device manufacturing tax incentives" (see http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/Summary.aspx?bill=6462&year=2005).

Experimental "biopharming" should not be eligible for the tax incentives outlined by SHB 2640. We're aware you may not know about this secretive and highly experimental technology. It involves engineering common food crops to become virtual factories for experimental pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals.

The National Academies of Science has warned in two reports, that these untested, unproven biopharm compounds cannot be contained or kept from contaminating the food supply if food crops are used to produce them. Secretive, open-air biopharming experiments already have been planted in Washington farm fields by Washington State University and a Canadian company, SemBioSys. See last Friday's (February 24) editorial in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, "Are there human genes in your food?" online at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/260676_farm24.html.

As a consumer-owned business doing $100 million a year in sales, with 37,000 members, and farmers across the state, we are deeply opposed to any such tax incentives because of the risks of biopharming. We urge you to sponsor a floor amendment to SHB 2640 and hope that in the future you'll consider supporting legislation to better regulate this dangerous practice.

Suggested amendment:

"Whereas consumers do not want experimental drugs and industrial chemicals in their food without their knowledge or consent, and

Whereas the National Academy of Sciences warns that it's virtually impossible to keep biopharmaceuticals and biochemicals out of the food supply if food crops are used to grow them experimentally, and

Whereas agriculture and the food industry are the largest employers and the greatest source of revenue in Washington state and biopharms pose a great financial risk,

Therefore, tax incentives shall not be extended to companies or institutions that engineer food crops to produce synthetic drugs or chemicals."

Thank you for your support,

Tracy Wolpert
Chief Executive Officer
PCC Natural Markets

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