Monsanto May Be Immune From Federal Oversight Soon, Thanks to Rider
On Thursday, Congress passed a short-term budget measure—the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill—that included an anonymously-added rider that critics are saying gives Monsanto immunity from the federal government.
It’s a bit more complicated than that: the provision allows the US Department of Agriculture to grant temporary permission for genetically modified crops to be planted, even if a judge has ruled that said GMO crops aren’t approved—at least until proper environmental reviews are conducted.
Once you plant something, though, it’s hard to get it out of the wild, even should the USDA suddenly change its mind after already giving approval. Once they take root, GMO crops can spread or cross-pollinate into the environment—carrying whatever genetic programs their creators have loaded them with.
(Monsanto denies it uses the much-discussed gene-use restriction technology or “terminator seeds,” which would deaden seeds after one planting so that farmers couldn’t save seeds from their own crops, and would be dependent on buying seeds from the agribusiness giant. However, the technology may be back.)
The bill still needs to pass the Senate, however, and be approved by Obama. It’s also only good for six months, even if it passes.
NPR, which is the only mainstream media outlet I’ve seen covering the story (at least as of this writing), has this to say:
Tucked inside a short-term funding measure that Congress approved Thursday is a provision that critics are denouncing as a “Monsanto Protection Act.”
The so-called “biotech rider” was included in legislation that won final approval from the House, avoiding a shutdown of the federal government on March 27, when the current funding was set to expire. The provision was slipped into the legislation anonymously. It explicitly grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to override a judicial ruling stopping the planting of a genetically modified crop.
On the face of it, that sounds pretty bad. And when environmental and organic farming groups got wind of it earlier this month, they mounted a campaign urging voters to call and email their senators and voice their outrage over the provision, which they denounced as a “giveaway to genetically engineered seed companies” and even an act of “fascism.” Also dismayed was Montana Democrat Jon Tester, the Senate’s lone active farmer, who had offered an amendment to strike the provision from the funding resolution.
The provision “tells USDA to ignore any judicial ruling regarding the planting of genetically modified crops,” Tester said in remarks prepared for delivery on the Senate floor last week.
But a closer look at the language of the provision suggests it may not be granting the USDA any powers it doesn’t already have.
The only other places I’ve found any info on this whatsoever are a small handful of organic food and activist blogs which don’t seem to be particularly objective—and Russia Today. Those stories were on Google News two hours ago, and have now been literally washed away by a slew of articles about how a local farmer was awarded a $2,500 check by Monsanto. (You have got to be kidding me.)
Want the raw information on Monsanto and how to avoid GMOs for good? Check out the new Ultraculture book MONSANTO VS. THE WORLD.
Sustainable Food News, a food activist blog, had this to say:
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a six-month continuing resolution budget bill that included a rider that would allow the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops even when a court of law has found they were approved illegal.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) added the rider (Amendment 26), basically a legislative tactic to pass a controversial provision that would not pass as its own bill, which detractors say essentially gives a blank check to biotech giant Monsanto Co. and other corporations to plant illegal GE crops.
The Senate was not allowed to consider two amendments offered by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) that would have removed policy riders that favored the largest seed companies and the largest meatpackers. Tester observed that these policy riders were worth millions of dollars to these companies. [Tester is a certified organic farmer]
If you want to see what happened directly for yourself I’ve cut out the actual rider and attached it below. A PDF of the entire bill is here.
SEC. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act is or has been invalidated or vacated, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon request by a farmer, grower, farm operator, or producer, immediately grant temporary permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with section 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements, including measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner: Provided, That all such conditions shall be applicable only for the interim period necessary for the Secretary to complete any required analyses or consultations related to the petition for non-regulated status: Provided further, That nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the Secretary’s authority under section 411, 412 and 414 of the Plant Protection Act.
For even more background to this situation, see the recent Salon article “How Monsanto outfoxed the Obama administration.”
Food Democracy Now has created a petition to Obama to strike down the rider here.