Congress and Obama Protect Monsanto

From Democracy Now, April 2, 2013, The Monsanto Protection Act? A Debate on Controversial New Measure Over Genetically Modified Crops:

“President Obama outraged food activists last week when he signed into law a spending bill with a controversial rider that critics have dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act.” The rider says the government must allow the planting of genetically modified crops even if courts rule they pose health risks. “

This legislation was passed as a rider to the continuing funding resolution bill, HR 933 which assures that the government is funded at 2012 levels, although with language canceling the 0.5% raise for federal employees set to start on March 27,  out September 2013 whereupon Congress must either come forth with an actual budget or pass yet another temporary funding bill.

 

The insertion of this rider was a backroom deal  A short history, by Food Democracy Now explains:

“Why is this such a big deal? The court system is often our last hope, with Congress, the White House, and regulatory agencies deep inside industry’s pocket. Several legal challenges have resulted in court decisions overturning USDA’s approval of new GMO crops, for example, sugar beets.

So the biotech industry, unable to make its case to a judge, figured why not just rewrite the Constitution instead, with the help of a Democratic Senate led by Senator Barbara Mikulski, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Despite Montana Senator Jon Tester’s best attempts to stop the so-called biotech rider, the measure was pushed through. (Industry had tried to get a similar measure passed more than once last year.) Tester minced no words, in an article in today’s POLITICO about this and other industry power grabs such as weakening small farmer protections:

These provisions are giveaways, pure and simple, and will be a boon worth millions of dollars to a handful of the biggest corporations in this country. They deserve no place in this bill. We simply have got to do better on both policy and process.

If President Obama signs the budget deal with this provision, it could have long-lasting and serious consequences. This list of pending petitions to USDA to approve genetically-engineered crops includes new versions of corn, soybean, canola, and cotton. Once these crops get planted, it will be too late to do much about it. That’s why groups such as the Center for Food Safety file lawsuits when USDA turns a blind eye to the potentially harmful environmental consequences of these unique crops.

Here is how Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety described the situation:

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. 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.

The biotech industry, with the help of Congress, is attempting an end-run of the judicial system. Since judges can’t get be bought off, just go to your friends in Congress instead.”

Concerned citizens should have a look at Food Democracy Now’s campaign calling on President Obama to issue an executive order to call for the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods..

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