Congress Sneaks Pro-Monsanto, Anti-Consumer Bill into Law

Posted April 1, 2013 in Consumer Law Government by

Business man giving the thumbs up to the camera while pocketing money

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Hidden within the appropriations bill passed by Congress last week to fund the federal government was an unnecessary rider that rolls back consumer rights and sharply restricts the ability to seek justice through the judicial system.

Section 735 of the funding resolution, labeled the “Farmer Assurance Provision,” prevents federal courts from intervening in the harvest or sale of genetically modified crops, even if they are shown to cause health problems.

Dubbed by critics as “The Monsanto Protection Act,” the rider effectively shields the giant agribusiness conglomerate from loss, no matter what deleterious effects studies might find about its GMO products.

“This would basically close off the courtroom before all the information was ever available,” says Fred Pritzker, founder of food safety law firm Pritzker Olsen. “It’s a very dangerous thing to do.”

“It’s bad policy to ever tell the court it can’t hear an issue and make a decision based on all the facts that can only come out in the context of litigation,” Pritzker says, “rather than blanket prohibition by statutory fiat.”

“This provision is simply an industry ploy to continue to sell genetically engineered seeds even when a court of law has found they were approved by USDA illegally,” a petition by Food Democracy Now stated. “It is unnecessary and an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review. Congress should not be meddling with the judicial review process based solely on the special interest of a handful of companies.”

 

Money Talks

If the bill seems suspiciously helpful toward Monsanto, it’s because they wrote it in cooperation with Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who defended its contents. “What it says is if you plant a crop that is legal to plant when you plant it, you get to harvest it,” Blunt said. “But it is only a one-year protection in that bill.”

The senator has received over $64,000 from Monsanto in campaign donations since 2007.

The rider was inserted into the massive appropriations bill with no hearings and no committee oversight. “In this hidden backroom deal, [Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Chair of the Appropriations Committee] turned her back on consumer, environmental, and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement.  “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Senator Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”

President Obama signed the bill into law despite an uproar from food safety advocates. Lo and behold, another consumer right down the drain.

 

Preemption Abuse

Fred Pritzker

On top of the disturbing notion of Monsanto writing the laws that govern Monsanto, the rider is yet another example of corporate interests systematically stripping consumers of their rights through the judicial system and abusing the notion of federal preemption to block states from enforcing their own laws.

“There is a move afoot both in drug law and medical products law to push for preemption, that basically says that because the federal government has gone in and made a law that any lawsuits that run afoul of that are preempted, which is a very dangerous and unsafe thing,” Pritzker says.

The end result? The big guys get what they want.

Monsanto, which controls about 90 percent of American’s soy market and 80 percent of the corn market with its GMO products, is currently awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court over how far down the supply chain it can control its patented seeds. The company has faced harsh criticism over its iron-fisted control of its products, which compels farmers to purchase a new batch of seeds each year instead of saving grains from the previous crop.

The same control they exert over their seeds appears to have extended to the U.S. government as well.

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