(Beyond Pesticides, June 7, 2013) U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has announced her intent to oppose an extension of the “Monsanto Protection Act,” or “Biotech Rider.” Senator Stabenow announced her opposition in a conversation (“colloquy”) with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on the Senate floor. Senator Merkley had been pushing for a vote on an amendment to the Farm Bill that would have repealed the Biotech Rider, which was surreptitiously added to the House’s 6 month continuing resolution (H.R. 933 -Sec. 735) earlier this year. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who wrote the provision and whose state is home to Monsanto’s headquarters, blocked the Senate’s vote on the measure, and shortly thereafter the Senate moved to end debate on the Farm Bill and move towards final passage. As The Huffington Post reports, all hope is not lost; “While Merkley was unable to get a repeal vote, the colloquy is a significant concession, with Stabenow promising she will oppose any attempt to extend the Monsanto Protection Act in backroom negotiations.”
The existence of the provision came as a surprise even to members of Congress, as many were unaware that the rider had been added to H.R. 933. Senator Merkley voiced his stern opposition to the deceitful procedural tactics of Senator Blunt, Monsanto, and the biotech industry, saying,
“In an accountable and transparent legislative system, the Monsanto Protection Act would have had to be considered by the Agriculture Committee, complete with testimony by relevant parties. If the committee had approved the act, there would have been a subsequent opportunity to debate it on the floor of this Chamber. Complete transparency with a full opportunity for the public to weigh in is essential.
Since these features of an accountable and transparent legislative system were not honored and because I think the policy itself is unacceptable, I have offered an amendment to the farm bill which would repeal this rider in its entirety. To this point, my efforts to introduce that amendment have been objected to, and it takes unanimous consent. This type of rider has no place in an appropriations bill to fund the Federal Government, and a bill that interferes with our system of checks and balances should never have become law.”
The Monsanto Protection Act undermines the basic tenants of the U.S. constitution. It takes away the authority of federal courts to stop the sale or production of genetically modified crops, a blatant attack on the American system of checks and balances as the Senator indicates. In addition, the provision would compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately grant any requests for permits to allow continued planting and commercialization of unlawfully approved GE crops.
This is a concern for consumer health and environmental organizations because they have used court decisions to help slow down the advance on GE crops. In October 2012, a federal court ruled in favor of halting cultivation of GE crops in all national wildlife refuges in the Southeastern U.S. The suit, filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), CFS, and Beyond Pesticides, was a part of a series of legal actions taken against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services (FWS) for entering into cooperative farming agreements for GE crops on wildlife refuge sites without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and refuge management laws.
In August of 2012, the Oregon Court of Appeals ordered a temporary halt to the state’s plan to allow genetically engineered (GE) canola to be planted in parts of the Willamette Valley, Oregon. The order is in effect until the court rules on a lawsuit filed by opponents of GE canola planting who say it threatens the state’s $32 million specialty seed industry.
Passage of the Monsanto Protection Act preceded the recent discovery of Monsanto’s GE Roundup Ready wheat in Sen. Merkley’s home state of Oregon, complicating issues of liability for the company, despite the economic harm the discovery has caused to the U.S. wheat export market.
Across the country, citizens have stood up for their food rights by voicing their opinions directly to their elected leaders. Beyond Pesticides’ list of issues of concerns associated with the Farm Bill includes the following with just 5 easy clicks:
1. OPPOSE Senator Joe Donnelly’s (D-IN) amendment to the Farm Bill that will reverse our efforts to take the hazardous fumigant sulfuryl fluoride out of our food supply
2. OPPOSE amendments SA 1100 and SA 1103 would remove commonsense protections from pesticide applications directly into our nation’s waterways
3. OPPOSE amendment SA 984 that will repeal a section of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that authorizes EPA to evaluate and restrict imported seeds that are treated with pesticides
4. SUPPORT Amendment SA 1027 to protect pollinators
5. SUPPORT Amendments 1093, 1080, and 1088 to advance organic food
The Senate passed a cloture motion (places a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter, and thereby overcomes a filibuster) yesterday morning cutting off debate on the Farm Bill, with the majority leader Senator Harry Reid setting Monday, June 10, 2013 for the Farm Bill vote. This means that amendments for which there is not agreement should not be considered for adoption in the Farm Bill when the vote takes place on June 10.
For more information on the environmental hazards associated with GE technology, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering webpage. As always, best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the USDA Certified Organic Seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited.
Source: The Huffington Post
Image Source: Food Democracy Now!
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides