The controversial so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” was approved by U.S. Congress on March 24, 2013. It has been said to protect genetically modified seeds from litigation regardless of the effects on the health of consumers.
Named the Farmer Assurance Provision, it is a rider slipped into spending bill HR 933. Though it will only be active for six months until the bill expires on September 30, it has raised alarm among activists.
The bill has been accused of being approved without the knowledge of most senators. The woman responsible for passing the bill was Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who is currently the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman. Activists from Food Democracy Now and the Center for Food Safety are directly blaming her for her role in allowing this law to be approved without prior review from the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees.
Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, Andrew Kimbrell, released this statement:
“In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto.”
An apology was later released on her Official Website:
“Senator Mikulski understands the anger over this provision. She didn’t put the language in the bill and doesn’t support it either. As Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Mikulski’s first responsibility was to prevent a government shutdown. That meant she had to compromise on many of her own priorities to get a bill through the Senate that the House would pass. She will continue to fight for a regular and timely Appropriations process and other valuable priorities, including food safety.”
As was reported in the Washington Times, the act is mainly viewed as a victory for companies such as Cargill, Monsanto, Syngento Corp and other affiliated PACs that have donated $7.5 million to members of Congress since 2009, and $372,000 to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Food safety activists and concerned citizens are outraged. Over 250,000 voters signed a petition directed at President Barack Obama opposing the act last week, which reads:
“I urgently request that you veto HR 933. I am outraged that the “farmer assurance provision”, Section 735, currently included in HR 933, was not struck from the Continuing Resolution spending bill passed by Congress.”
Food Democracy Now released an official statement condemning the bill.
“The so-called ‘biotech rider’ was included in budget legislation that won final approval from the House, avoiding a shutdown of the federal government on March 27, when the current funding was set to expire. The provision was slipped into the legislation anonymously and explicitly grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to override a judicial ruling stopping the planting of a genetically modified crop.
“If leadership in Washington, D.C. can betray the public behind closed doors, it’s time that the American public gain the right to transparency about what they are eating and feeding their families every day.”
And farmers organized by Food Democracy Now held a rally in front of the White House.