A Look at the “Monsanto Protection Act”
A controversial policy rider, also known as Section 733, was anonymously inserted into the Senate’s Continuing Resolution (CR), a funding bill signed into law by President Obama last week. Though wrapped in misleading “farmer-friendly” language, the rider, commonly called the “Monsanto Protection Act”, was simply an industry ploy, negating any meaningful judicial review of the USDA’s decisions to allow planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops.
If a review of a GE crop fails to comply with the law, and require further analysis, this provision overrides a court-mandated review and allows continued planting before further USDA review takes place. Ultimately, this rider points to the reduction in oversight of genetically engineered foods, and the ability of powerful interests to interfere with our right to know about our food.
In Mark Bittman’s latest opinion column in the New York Times, he sheds light on the meaning behind the rider:
“Congress is (again) protecting corporations from the public interest. This is all the more reason that food derived from genetically modified organisms should be so labeled, especially since the vast majority of Americans want them to be.”
Bittman goes on to point out that the USDA has already been overly supportive of GE crops, having approved the planting of genetically engineered beets when the court made a move to stop it a few years ago. He also notes that genetic engineering has not been faring as well as anticipated. With over a dozen weed species now resistant to Roundup Ready seeds, which account for 90% of soybean and 70% of corn production, chemical companies have resorted to making inflated claims and using more herbicides (and pesticides) than ever.
Bittman reinstates the necessity to move cautiously in regards to new biotechnology, of which the rider now allows companies to do the opposite:
“It’s smart to prudently explore the possible benefits and uses of genetically engineered materials in agriculture, and to deploy them if and when they’re proven to be a) safe (otherwise, no) and b) beneficial to society at large (otherwise, why bother?). I don’t believe that any G.E. materials have so far been proven to be either of these things, and therefore we should proceed cautiously.”
We have a right to know about our food, and our federal agencies need to do a thorough job evaluating genetically engineered (GE) crops and GE foods, before they are introduced into our homes.
Click here to see Jon Stewart’s shed some light (and laughter) on the Monsanto Protection Act.