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Monsanto rider: New bill could make biotech companies immune to courts

Published time: July 10, 2012 20:19
Edited time: July 11, 2012 00:19
An activist from Friends of the Earth Europe wears a bee headband as another holds up a placard during a protest outside the Monsanto's office in Brussels (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)

An activist from Friends of the Earth Europe wears a bee headband as another holds up a placard during a protest outside the Monsanto's office in Brussels (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)

If passed, an amendment in the Agricultural Appropriations Bill will not just allow, but require the secretary of agriculture to grant permits for planting or cultivating GM crops – even if a federal court has given an injunction against it.

Basically, all Monsanto and other biotech companies have to do is ask and the industry gets its way. Issues like crop contamination, damage to farmers or consumers, courts orders or USDA studies all go out the window and the biotech industry cashes in.

Organizations like Food Democracy Now are in a panic, calling all to petition against the bill, which they say “fundamentally undermines the concept of judicial review and would strip judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer rights and the environment, while opening up the floodgates for the planting of new untested genetically engineered crops, endangering farmers, consumers and the environment.”

Representative Peter DeFazio has been trying to push through an amendment that would kill the havoc-wreaking rider. He has the support of organizations like Organic Consumers Associations, Center for Food Safety and others. Their warnings have been circulating the web, gathering attention and support – but will they be enough to sway the House?

"Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of US courts, jettisons the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation's farmers and food supply at risk, " claimed the Center for Food Safety in a recent statement.

But how has such a rider even made it on to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill? According to Tom Philpot of Mother Jones, agricultural sub-committee chair Jack Kingston is responsible for inserting this pro-industry provision, which, many argue, has nothing to do with agricultural appropriations. Interestingly enough, Kingston was also voted “legislator of the year for 2011-2012″ by none other than the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include Monsanto and DuPont.

The media is speculating that the House of Representatives will vote on the bill on July 23rd, after allegedly delaying the issue twice earlier this month. But one thing is certain – if passed, this one line in a 90-page document will mean Frankenfood for consumers, losses for farmers and huge profits for biotech companies that don’t appear to care much for anything else.

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