Thursday, March 28, 2013

All About the "Monsanto Protection Act"

While most of Americans tuned into the gay marriage debate taking place in the US Supreme Court, another bill with the "Monsanto Protection Act" "Farmer Assurance Provision" quietly got codified into law and signed by President Obama. The piece of legislation in question is HR 933--a spending bill aimed at continuing funding for military and military veterans. To put this amount of funding in perspective, the army alone gets $40 billion, the navy gets $12 billion, the air force $28 billion, and the operation and maintenance of the navy (read: Halliburton, Northrupp Grumman and Boeing contracts) gets another $41 billion. Oh, and in that clause it says, "payments may be made on his certificate of necessity for confidential military purposes." Translation? Good luck getting any accountability on this spending! But really, the bill was deemed necessary to averting that government shutdown looming over the heads of government under the aegis of the "debt ceiling," "sequester" and "fiscal cliff." The bill itself and its ridiculous spending figures isn't the source of controversy.

The most egregious part of the bill comes from Section 735, a portion of the bill that was not introduced in earlier versions. This one came in subtly, and it reads:

SEC. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated
status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act H. R. 933—35
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

In plain English, now? The US Department of Agriculture may grant Monsanto and other companies a permit that enables them to continue sale and production of its seeds, even if the judicial courts find them unsafe. It's worth noting here that the USDA has corporate biotech lackeys in key positions.

Normally, if the safety of any food is in question, federal courts have the power to halt its sale and distribution immediately. I mean, haven't we read about the anal retentiveness of the FDA threatening raw milk producers and walnut companies over its health labels? Despite studies linking GMOs with tumors in rats, no US government agency has stepped in to halt or curtail production. This bill not only perpetuates this practice, but it also overturns that very right of the courts to step in and protect consumers, thus setting a very dangerous precedent.

Provision 735 is known in Congress now as a biotech rider, as it completely undermines the Dept of Agriculture's ability to review the safety and efficacy of the seeds. That's right: even if the seeds are found to be unfit for consumers, they can still be sold. And, given the recent failure of GMO labeling laws, we'll be none the wiser. With Russia's recent (albeit temporary) ban of US GMO imports and the European Union's long-standing embargo of GMO imported goods, perhaps Monsanto is trying to find ways to circumvent the mounting evidence of its hazardous seeds.

The active players in this game:
This provision was slipped in by Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, who allegedly worked with Monsanto in drafting the provision. Given that the man received a staggering $20,000 in campaign contributions from Monsanto--the largest donor of his campaign--it's unsurprising that he's now being an active agent for the biotech giant. The lone dissenter of the bill was Montana Senator John Tester (D), whose plea for a review of the biotech rider was ignored by the Senate. The other active player in this tragic comedy is Democrat Senator Mikulski, head of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Turns out, Monsanto donated $372,000 to this group, too.

Roy Blunt: Whose morals and ethics cost a mere $20k

What to do:
1) Seriously, buy organic. We can write petitions until we're blue in the face, but unless people have $500,000 to throw around as a way of buying out our government officials like the biotech giants, the change has to come from within. Yes, it's costly. But so is undergoing medical treatment for leaky gut syndrome and taking meds for food allergies, two strong effects of consuming GMOs.
2) Raise awareness. I know it's trite, but people can't change an issue they know nothing about. For instance, I never even knew about the "Monsanto Protection Act" until someone posted it on my Facebook wall. So, when stuff like this happens, blog about it, tweet about it, Facebook-update-about-it.
3) Know what's in your food. The list of foods with GMOs seems to be a mile long. But I posted a while ago about boycotting companies that fought GMO labeling laws... the majority of which have GMOs in their products. For my Indian readers, please know that American-made products imported here also have GMOs (Cornflakes cereal, for instance--Kellogg's has quite an aggressive marketing campaign here, too). Knowledge is power, my friends.

If you want to watch documentaries further explaining the adverse health effects of GMOs, here are links to a few:

Scientists Under Attack: Documenting the US and British government's attempt to silence and cover up studies illustrating the harmful effects of GMOs:

Genetically Modified Food: Panacea or Poison: Documents both sides of the GM debate and highlights the lack of evidence behind the safety of said foods.

The World According to Monsanto: Highlighting the plights of farmers who look for alternative seeds and the litigious nature of the biotech giant. Amazing way to learn about the stranglehold of Monsanto on farmers and its incredible legal clout.

Seeds of Freedom: Questions the biotech industry's claims, one of which is the alleged necessity of creating GM seeds as a way of fighting world hunger.

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