‘Monsanto Protection Act’ Sneaks Through Senate

Non-GMO groups are furious over the 'Monsanto Protection Act', saying it backs biotech and agribusiness over farmer and consumer safety.

An earmark, known as the Monsanto Protection Act, was included in the Senate's continuing resolution bill that passed this week in Washington. It will allow GMO crops to be harvested and sold even if a court has ruled that their patents were obtained illegally. (Photo: Cristian Baitg/Getty Images)

Mar 22, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Steve Holt is a regular contributor to TakePart. He writes about food for Edible Boston, Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, and other publications.

When the Senate passed a budget resolution last Wednesday that appears to prevent some of the potential damage from sequestration, the Continuing Resolution included several food- and agriculture-related earmarks.

But one inclusion in particular is especially controversial. The “biotech rider” would require the USDA to approve the harvest and sale of crops from genetically modified seed even if a court has ruled the environmental studies on the crop were inadequate. This aspect of the bill infuriated many sustainable food and agriculture groups, who nicknamed the bill the “Monsanto Protection Act.”

If signed into law by President Obama, here’s what the Monsanto Protection Act would do: It will allow farmers to plant, harvest and sell genetically engineered plants even if the crops have been ruled upon unfavorably in court. A Center for Food Safety statement called the rider “an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review of agency actions” and “ a major violation of the separation of powers.”

But perhaps more frightening, other critics say, is that the Monsanto Protection Act threatens the health and wellbeing of the public by undermining the federal courts’ ability to protect farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops.

The Monsanto Protection Act was slipped into the bill while it sat in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski. According to the Center for Food Safety, the committee held no hearings on this controversial biotech rider and many Democrats were unaware of its presence in the larger bill.

“In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental, and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Senator Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”

Food Democracy Now is calling on concerned citizens to call Congress and petition President Obama to veto the Monsanto Protection Act by removing Section 735 from the Continuing Resolution bill.

More than 100 of the nation’s top organizations and businesses have come out against the Monsanto Protection Act, including the National Farmers Union, American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, Environmental Working Group, Stonyfield Farm, Nature’s Path, Consumers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Public Citizen.

Editor's Note: President Obama signed the appropriations bill containing the measure dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act"—H.R. 933— into law on March 26, 2013.

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