When the Senate passed a budget resolution Wednesday that appears to prevent some of the potential damage from sequestration, the Continuing Resolution included several food- and agriculture-related earmarks.
But one inclusion in particular is especially controversial. The “biotech rider” would require the USDA to approve the harvest and sale of crops from genetically modified seed even if a court has ruled the environmental studies on the crop were inadequate. This aspect of the bill infuriated many sustainable food and agriculture groups, who nicknamed the bill the “Monsanto Protection Act.”
If signed into law by President Obama, here’s what the rider would do: It will allow farmers to plant, harvest and sell genetically engineered plants even if the crops have been ruled upon unfavorably in court. A Center for Food Safety statement called the rider “an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review of agency actions” and “ a major violation of the separation of powers.”
But perhaps more frightening, other critics say, is that the rider threatens the health and wellbeing of the public by undermining the federal courts’ ability to protect farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops.
The rider was slipped into the bill while it sat in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski. According to the Center for Food Safety, the committee held no hearings on this controversial biotech rider and many Democrats were unaware of its presence in the larger bill.
“In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski 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.”
Food Democracy Now is calling on concerned citizens to call Congress and petition President Obama to remove Section 735 from the Continuing Resolution bill.
More than 100 of the nation’s top organizations and businesses have come out against this section of the bill, including the National Farmers Union, American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, Environmental Working Group, Stonyfield Farm, Nature’s Path, Consumers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Public Citizen.
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Steve’s story about healthy fast food was anthologized in Best Food Writing 2011. His food and general interest stories regularly appear in Edible Boston, Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, and other places. Email Steve | @thebostonwriter