(Beyond Pesticides, September 13, 2013) A three-month extension of the controversial budget provision protecting genetically-modified seed manufacturers from litigation was included in the U.S. House of Representatives’ spending bill on Tuesday evening. Public interest and responsible business advocates say the provision undermines the federal courts’ ability to safeguard farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops. The controversial corporate earmark, also known as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” or “Biotech Rider,” was included in last spring’s 6-month Continuing Resolution (CR) spending bill, which funds the government until the end of this month. Beyond Pesticides joined Center for Food Safety (CFS) and over 120 of the nation’s top organizations and businesses sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid and Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Mikulski Thursday calling on them to strip the rider from the bill on Thursday.
Wrapped in a “farmer-friendly” package, the rider represents a serious assault on the fundamental safeguards of our judicial system and would negatively impact farmers, the environment and public health across America. The rider would strip federal courts of their authority to halt the sale and planting of an illegal, potentially hazardous GE crop and compel USDA to allow continued planting of the same crop.
In addition to being completely unnecessary, the rider represents an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review, which is an essential element of U.S. law and provides a critical check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods. This also raises potential jurisdictional concerns with the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary Committees and merit a hearing by the committees before adoption.
“It is extremely disappointing to see the damaging ”˜Monsanto Protection Act’ policy rider extended in the House spending bill,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for Center for Food Safety. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans called their elected officials to voice their frustration and disappointment over the inclusion of ”˜Monsanto Protection Act’ this past spring. Its inclusion is a slap in the face to the American public and our justice system.”
In early March, Beyond Pesticides along with over one hundred food businesses and retailers, and family farm, consumer, health, environmental and civil liberties groups, led by CFS, united to oppose the biotech rider. Because the rider was added to a CR that was needed to avoid a government shutdown, some members of Congress were reluctant to oppose it. However Senator leadership issued strong statements last spring opposing the rider. According to Senator John Tester (D-MT), who worked to remove the rider and is the only farmer in the Senate, “If the USDA makes a mistake when it issues a permit to plant a genetically modified crop, they can’t go back and pull that crop out of the ecosystem, out of our land. If a court finds that, in this case the USDA, a federal agency, finds this crop is bad, is harmful, the USDA, because of this rider, is required not to comply with that court ruling.”
In June, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee announced her intent to oppose the rider. The rider 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. 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.
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: Center for Food Safety
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.