A small provision – now dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act,” sneaked through an Appropriation Bill that was approved by the House on March 22 and then signed by president Barack Obama after returning from his trip to Israel this week.
The Act has been interpreted as a measure to protect Monsanto, and similar companies like DuPont and Dow Chemical involved in genetically engineering seeds, from litigation arising from health concerns.
Over the 24 hours following the passing of the bill, at least 250,000 people have signed a petition opposing the provision, and a handful of farmers, organized by Food Democracy Now, have expressed their strong opposition to the decision by rallying in front of the White House.
“President Obama knowingly signed the Monsanto Protection Act over the insistence of more than 250,000 Americans who signed an urgent letter asking that he use his executive authority to veto H.R. 933 and send it back to Congress to remove the Monsanto Protection Act from the bill,” the organization stated.
Section 735 of the H.R. 933
The language of the polemic section 735 of the H.R. 933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriation Act, 2013, reads as follows:
Sec. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act is or has been invalidated or vacated, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon request by a farmer, grower, farm operator, or producer, immediately grant temporary permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with section 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements, including measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner: Provided, That all such conditions shall be applicable only for the interim period necessary for the Secretary to complete any required analyses or consultations related to the petition for non-regulated status: Provided further, That nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the Secretary’s authority under section 411, 412 and 414 of the Plant Protection Act.
Now that the bill has been signed, and calling him out on presidential campaign promises, Food Democracy Now is demanding that President Obama issue an executive order to support the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Sixty-two countries around the world already have mandatory labeling of GMOs in place. The United States is not one of them.
Monsanto under “la lupa” for years
At the beginning of the year, the giant global corporation Monsanto reported huge profits coming from spreading biotech corn seeds throughout Latin America. This is the same modified corn that raised alerts everywhere in the world last year when a study published in “Food And Chemical Toxicology” revealed that lab rats fed a regular diet on Monsanto’s corn were significantly more likely to develop tumors.
Biotech companies argue that genetic engineering has been targeting two main issues: food prices and food safety. In the first case, researchers try to modify the seeds to make the crops resistant to weed killers, (like Roundup), and to grow bigger and faster.
The stated purpose of engineering food also includes mitigating losses when the crops experience drought stress.
In the second case, the premise is that once the above is achieved, GMOs could then solve the problem of food scarcity and hunger in the world.
In March 2011, family farmers and small farm organizations filed a lawsuit against Monsanto aiming to invalidate Monsanto’s patents. They were concerned that Monsanto’s GMO crops would cause unwanted genetic contamination of their crops.
Federal Judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed the case in February 2012, ruling that the farmers had no legal business regarding the contamination concerns.
Monsanto has also been accused of exploiting their patent on transgenic corn, soybean and cotton to put conventional farmers out of business. Until the end of last year, Monsanto was under investigation for violating anti-trust laws. The investigation is now closed.
Repercussions of H.R. 933 Bill
H.R. 933 can prevent federal courts from halting the sale or planting of controversial GMOs with no consideration for possible associated health issues.
The International Business Times, reports, “H.R. 933 was a spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown and ensuring that the federal government would continue to be able to pay its bills. But the Center for Food Safety maintains that many Democrats in Congress were not even aware that the provision was in the legislation.”