Well, the jig is up. The previously anonymous author of Section 735, dubbed The Monsanto Protection Act, in Congress’ Continuing Resolution that was recently signed into law by President Obama has been revealed.
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt gave Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto the ability to write the controversial rider, which demands that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allow the sale and planning of genetically engineered (GE) crops to continue even if the crop is being contested in federal courts for public health or environmental reasons—in essence allowing genetically engineered crops to evade full judicial review. Senator Blunt has received over $60,000 from Monsanto since 2008.
Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, has released a public statement apologizing to the public for the passing of the Monsanto Protection Act, stating that the legislation was buried deep within a government spending bill that was required to ‘prevent a government shutdown’.
It is the latest chapter in a battle that started in 2007 regarding the USDA’s approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa, where a federal district judge banned plantings of the GE alfalfa variety until the USDA completed a thorough environmental impact statement. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the planting ban in June 2010, and the USDA re-approved the crop in January 2011 after completing the study.
Even though the GE rider passed, it will expire on September 30th with the Continuing Resolution. Still, the window is wide open for additional GE crops to proliferate the market until then.
The good news is that public outcry has skyrocketed the visibility of this closed-door deal. What do you think? How can farmers and eaters take action to prevent wheeling and dealing behind the scenes? How can the public hold lawmakers accountable and keep corporate lobbying dollars from dictating public policy? How should our government handle the regulation of genetically engineered crops?
For more info about genetic engineering in the food system, visit our GE page.