The “Monsanto Protection Act” Exemplifies Corruption in Washington
You have to give it to Monsanto for its unrelenting persistence and keen ability to manipulate the rules of the game in Washington to its benefit.
Last week, the multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation that brought us DDT, PCBs, and Agent Orange delivered a new concoction to the American people: Section 735 of HR 933, called the “Farmers Assurance Provision” by its supporters and the “Monsanto Protection Act” by its opponents. The inaccessible, jargon-filled paragraph essentially ties the hands of all three branches of government when it comes to stopping or slowing down Monsanto’s business, no matter the consequences to farmers and consumers (which would include all food-eating citizens who buy any food from grocery stores or restaurants).
The International Business Times has helpfully provided five terrifying facts about the provision of law that passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Obama last Tuesday, while most of even the savviest Washington skeptics had their eyes on the gay marriage argument over at the Supreme Court. A summary of those five terrifying facts follows:
1. The act effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of Monsanto’s toxic seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future. Many anti-GMO folks argue there have not been enough studies into the potential health risks of this new class of crop. Well, now it appears that even if those studies are completed and they end up revealing severe adverse health effects related to the consumption of genetically modified foods, the courts will have no ability to stop the spread of the seeds and the crops they bear.
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 provision in question 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. But the Center for Food Safety maintains that many Democrats in Congress were not even aware that the provision was in the legislation:
“In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”
4. The President did nothing to stop it, either. 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.
5. It sets a terrible precedent. Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right.
No government in today’s world is free of corruption, but many countries have instated some sort of ban on GMOs, including France, Russia, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, and Peru. Many other countries have restrictions in place, including a labeling requirement. Ironically, Obama promised to fight for GMO labeling during his 2008 campaign. His action last Tuesday couldn’t be further from what his voters expected of him.
If you’re interested in the ways in which Monsanto has used the American and Canadian court system to silence and harass small farmers (many of whom merely own farms onto which Monsanto seeds have blown), I recommend the excellent documentary David vs. Monsanto.
To learn more about why there is such a broad coalition that opposes Monsanto, visit Millions Against Monsanto.
View other lone pamphleteer posts about Monsanto here.