Protests can't stop U.S. budget from protecting Monsanto

After approval of the budget bill in Congress last week, opponents of genetically modified food garnered their forces, gathered 250,000 signatures, and protested outside the White House. President Obama signed the budget bill into law anyway on Tuesday.

An anti-GMO protest at the White House on March 26, 2011. Photo: Marisseay, CC some rights reserved

The anti-GMO forces are so upset because the budget includes a non-budgetary item – what they call the "Monsanto Rider" or the "Monsanto Protection Act."  The provision appears to give the St. Louis-based agri-giant protection from lawsuits.    It says that while a lawsuit regarding Monsanto's GMO seeds is pending, the U.S. Department of Agriculture must allow farmers to continue to plant those seeds.

As Politico reads it, "Wording that appears to strip courts of the authority to restrict plantings of a genetically modified crop if the Agriculture Department has conducted insufficient environmental studies."

Politico goes on:

"The language is unusually strong: the (USDA) secretary “shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law… immediately grant” temporary permits to continue using the seed at the request of a farmer or producer wanting such a stewardship program."

The group Food Democracy Now says on its website: “This dangerous provision, the Monsanto Protection Act, strips judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer and farmer rights and the environment, while opening up the floodgates for the planting of new untested genetically engineered crops, endangering farmers, citizens and the environment.”

The USDA told Politico the bill seems to pre-empt judicial review, and seems unenforceable.


Support for the bill

According to Politico, Monsanto’s lobbying papers say the goal is “continued cultivation" during a court case, to “fairly balance any environmental concerns with the needs of the farmers.”

Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, Monsanto's home state, worked with the company to craft the language in the bill, and is one of its biggest supporters.  He told Politico:

“What it says is if you plant a crop that is legal to plant when you plant it, you get to harvest it.”


Opponents don't get much hearing

Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana tried to remove the provision from the budget bill.

St. Louis Today reports that when Tester argued on the Senate floor, he said supporters regard the pro-GMO wording as "the farmer assurance provision. But all it really assures is a lack of corporate liability."

He added: "The provision says that when a judge finds that the USDA approved a crop illegally, the department must re-approve the crop and allow it to continue to be planted regardless of what the judge says. Think about that."

Tester says the Monsanto provision has no place in the budget bill.

But his amendment, like many others, was not allowed by Senate leaders.  In the rush to prevent a government shutdown, it was never heard.

The bill expires in September.

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  1. Anyone who reads article such as this and seriously believe that corporate interests ARE NOT being placed far far far before the interests of the citizens of the US and the world must be delusional.

  2. While the Monsanto Provision "slipped" in on a Rider, it would have been nice to hear even a grunt out of the President.
    Here is the official statement from the White House.

  3. This is about much more than one company. Its about preventing a nefarious although high-minded-named group from using a specious lawsuit to prevent a compant from marketing its legal product to willing buyers.