Last week, President Obama signed into law the Agricultural Appropriations bill which allows additional funding for many federal agencies to continue, but also creates a provision that protects genetically modified seeds from litigation suits over health risks. This contested provision is considered by many as a “Monsanto Protection Bill”.
Earlier this year, an article published on IVN reported on the conflict of interests rising from the revolving door between the FDA, other federal agencies, and the companies they regulate — such as Monsanto. This time, it is Monsanto’s ability to work the legislative system in its favor that is receiving heavy criticism, as well as President Obama’s acceptance of this reality.
The contested amendment, titled ” Farmer Assurance Provision“, mandates the USDA to authorize farmers to continue to plant, cultivate, and sell GMO and GE crops, even when a court of law finds that the seed was approved illegally, until the judicial review is completed. Put simply, the amendment bars courts from halting the sale and plantation of GMO and GE seeds, even when health issues arise.
Food safety advocates consider this amendment to be an attack from the legislature on the judicial process and a clear gift to major agricultural biotech companies, including the largest one, Monsanto. In the end, if presented as protecting the rights of the farmers, the amendment will benefit food corporations at the expense of the health of Americans, according to Senator John Tester.
In addition to the content, critics of the amendment target the process by which the amendment was introduced.
The version of the Agricultural Appropriations bill that was approved by the House and the Senate was a must-pass bill. In other words, it was necessary to avoid a government shutdown.
Due to the emergency of the bill, the insertion of the “Monsanto Protection” amendment did not follow the proper review process in front of the agricultural or judiciary committees. According to Salon, many members of Congress were not even aware of the existence of the amendment.
Moreover, the major advocate for the amendment, Senator Roy Blunt from Missouri (Monsanto is based in St. Louis), reportedly drafted the language of the amendment with the help of Monsanto. He also received $64,250 in campaign funds from the company, according to Open Secrets.
Following the adoption of the bill by the Senate and the House, Food Democracy Now launched a petition asking the president to veto the bill and to send it back to Congress. However, despite receiving more than 250,000 signatures, the peitition was ignored and President Obama signed the bill into law on March 27.
It is worth noting that Obama was also among the top recipients of Monsanto’s political donations.
The appropriations bill will only last until September, but its effects on the general public’s confidence in Washington’s ability to listen to citizens over special interests will last longer.