In case you haven’t yet heard of the so-called Monsanto Protection Act—which was buried deep in the spending bill recently passed by Congress to avert a government shutdown and signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday—it’s a horrific piece of legislation that is tantamount to a huge corporate giveaway to the agricultural biotech giant Monsanto.
Don’t be fooled by the phony baloney, consumer-friendly name it’s been dubbed—the Farmer Assurance Provision; the deceptively titled piece of legislation not only won’t help farmers, it’s bad for the rest of us. The general crux of the bill is that it essentially bars the federal courts from stopping the planting or sale of genetically modified or engineered seeds, even if they are shown to cause severe and adverse health risks.
Here’s the full text of the Monsanto provision, which is located in Section 735 of H.R. 933:
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.
Basically, this amounts to a win for Monsanto, a leading producer of genetically engineered seeds, and a major loss for the rest of us.
But more than that, as the International Business Times noted, the provision—though it will be in effect for only six months—sets a dangerous precedent in that it sends a message to already powerful corporations that they can skirt consumer safety protections just by getting Congress on their side.
Here’s some more scary facts about the Monsanto Protection Act from the International Business Times’ list of five “terrifying things to know” about the provision:
2.) The provision’s language was apparently written in collusion with Monsanto. Lawmakers and companies working together to craft legislation is by no means a rare occurrence in this day and age. But the fact that Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, actually worked with Monsanto on a provision that in effect allows them to keep selling seeds, which can then go on to be planted, even if it is found to be harmful to consumers, is stunning. It’s just another example of corporations bending Congress to their will, and it’s one that could have dire risks for public health in America.
3.) Many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the “Monsanto Protection Act” even existed within the bill they were voting on. HR 933 was a spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown and ensuring that the federal government would continue to be able to pay its bills.
...4.) The President did nothing to stop it, either. On Tuesday, Obama signed HR 933 while the rest of the nation was fixated on gay marriage, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument concerning California’s Proposition 8. But just because most of the nation and the media were paying attention to gay marriage doesn’t mean that others were not doing their best to express their opposition to the “Monsanto Protection Act.” In fact, more than 250,000 voters signed a petition opposing the provision. And Food Democracy Now protesters even took their fight straight to Obama, protesting in front of the White House against Section 735 of the bill. He signed it anyway.