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'Monsanto Protection Act' to be voted on by Congress

Published time: March 14, 2013 17:38
Greenpeace activists hold placards during a demonstration at Monsanto company offices in Mexico City (Reuters / Tomas Bravo)

Greenpeace activists hold placards during a demonstration at Monsanto company offices in Mexico City (Reuters / Tomas Bravo)

Should Congress approve a proposition included in an agriculture bill up for vote this week, biotech companies like the Monsanto Company could win yet another victory in Washington.

The US House of Representatives is expected to weigh in on the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for Fiscal year 2013 this week, and included within the act lies the “Farmer Assurance Provision,” a small subsection that has so far earned opposition from hundreds of thousands family farmers, environmental interest groups and other advocates. Those hoping to defeat the bill have gone so far as to dub the provision the “Monsanto Protection Act.”

Small time agriculturists have increasingly spoken out against biotech companies in recent years, as giants like Monsanto have made millions off of genetically engineering crops that traditional plants simply can’t match up with. Additionally, Monsanto has taken a slew of farmers to court over questionable patent infringement suits, almost always winning the help of high-powered attorneys. Now if the Farmer Assurance Provision is approved by Congress, GMO companies will once again be allowed an advantage from their friends in Washington.

If the provision is approved this week, biotech companies won’t have to wait for federal approval to test and plant laboratory-made crops, instead being allowed to carry on with even selling such crops until the government elects to tell them otherwise.

The provision would strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of an illegal, potentially hazardous GE crop while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) assesses those potential hazards,” explains a letter to the House that has been signed by dozens of food businesses and retailers, as well as interest groups and agencies representing family farmers. “Further, it would compel USDA to allow continued planting of that same crop upon request, even if in the course of its assessment the Department finds that it poses previously unrecognized risks.”

The group Food Democracy Now has started a campaign on their own and is asking opponents of the bill to sign on with an amendment to the appropriations bill, the DeFazio Amendment, which would ensure that judicial oversight will continue to apply to GMOS.

The Farmer Assurance Provision, says the group, “strips the rights of federal courts to halt the sale and planting of genetically engineered crops during the legal appeals process.”

“The judicial review process is an essential element of US law and serves as a vital check on any Federal Agency decision that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods. Yet this provision seeks an end-run around such judicial review by preemptively deciding that industry can set its own conditions to continue to sell biotech seeds, even if a court may find them to have been wrongfully approved.”

In the letter undersigned by the ACLU, National Organic Coalition and others, the signees say,

“Far from safeguarding farmers, the only parties whose interests are ‘assured’ by this rider are those of GE crop developers.”

Monsanto has already proven it has friends in Washington, as a landmark patent case currently before the Supreme Court is expected to go in favor of the biotech giants. Now opponents of the pro-GMO provision in the appropriations bill are calling the amendment the “Monsanto Protection Act” and hope that a grassroots campaign will keep the industry leaders from having one more unfair advantage over small time farmers.

Meanwhile, the market value for Monsanto Company hit a 52-week high on March 11, and is expected to continue with that kind of momentum throughout 2013, predicts Zacks Consensus Estimates.

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