Opponents score a victory in Senate against ‘Monsanto Protection Act’

monsanto-protection-senate-budget_siIn its short-term government-funding bill, the US Senate will propose an end to a budget provision that protects genetically-modified seeds from litigation despite possible health risks.

Called “The Monsanto Protection Act” by opponents, the  budget rider shields biotech behemoths like Monsanto, Cargill and  others from the threat of lawsuits and bars federal courts from  intervening to force an end to the sale of a GMO  (genetically-modified organism) even if the  genetically-engineered product causes damaging health effects.
The US House of Representatives approved a three-month extension to the rider in their own  short-term FY14 Continuing Resolution spending bill, which was  approved last week by the lower chamber.
The Senate version of the legislation will make clear the  provision expires on Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal  year.
“That provision will be gone,” Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)  told Politico.
Pryor chairs the Senate subcommittee on agriculture  appropriations.
The Center for Food Safety said the Senate’s eradication of the  rider was “a major victory for the food movement” and a   “sea change in a political climate that all too often allows  corporate earmarks to slide through must-pass legislation.”
“Short-term appropriations bills are not an excuse for  Congress to grandfather in bad policy,” said Colin O’Neil,  the Center for Food Safety’s director of government affairs.
The biotech rider first made news in March when it was a last-minute addition to the  successfully-passed House Agriculture Appropriations Bill for  2013, a short-term funding bill that was approved to avoid a  federal government shutdown.
Following the original vote in March, President Barack Obama   signed the provision into law as part of  larger legislation to avoid a government shutdown. Rallies took place worldwide in May protesting the  clandestine effort to protect the powerful companies from  judicial scrutiny.
Largely as a result of prior lawsuits, the US Department of  Agriculture (USDA) is required to complete environmental impact  statements (EIS) to assess risk prior to both the planting and  sale of GMO crops. The extent and effectiveness to which the USDA  exercises this rule is in itself a source of serious dispute.
The reviews have been the focus of heated debate between food  safety advocacy groups and the biotech industry in the past. In  December of 2009, for example, Food Democracy Now collected  signatures during the EIS commenting period in a bid to prevent  the approval of Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, which many feared would  contaminate organic feed used by dairy farmers; it was approved  regardless.
The biotech rider “could override any court-mandated caution  and could instead allow continued planting.  Further, it  forces USDA to approve permits for such continued planting  immediately, putting industry completely in charge by allowing  for a ‘back door approval’ mechanism,” the Center for Food  Safety said earlier this month upon news the House was reviving  the measure.



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