MONSANTO PROTECTION ACT or “Biotec Rider”

What did Obama sign?

Definitely there is no Monsanto Protection Act. What there is to benefit Monsanto can be found in Sec 735 of a much larger US federal appropriations bill. Want to see it? Look below for the excerpt or check out the original.

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr933enr/pdf/BILLS-113hr933enr.pdf

Ok. Hard to see what Sec 735 means. Essentially, even if the courts decide that a genetically engineered crop is dangerous to the public or the environment, the court can no longer order Monsanto (or any other company) to stop planting the crops

Here’s an interpretation by one of the few small farm legislators in the US Congress.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mon.), whose organic family farm makes him the Senate’s only working farmer, delivered a scathing speech against the rider (735) on the Senate floor Wednesday before sponsoring an amendment that would nullify it. “Not only does this ignore the Constitution’s idea of separation of powers, but it also lets genetically-modified crops take hold across the country—even when a judge finds it violates the law,” he declared.

In his remarks, Tester stressed that the source of the rider is murky—there’s no way to find out which senator inserted it. “I don’t know who authored this provision,”  he said. “Maybe someone in Washington knows, but no one is willing to put their name to it. And that’s a shame.” I put calls into the offices of a couple of potential suspects, and got nowhere.

Tester also noted that yet another agribiz-friendly provision made it into the bill, one that would give “enormous market power to America’s three largest meatpacking corporations while stiffing family farmers and ranchers.” The provision, explained in more detail on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog, would override previous legislation and denies poultry and livestock producers the benefit of the the Packers and Stockyards Act, which seeks to give farmers a fair shake against the might of the few companies that dominate meat processing and can use their market power to shape the price they pay for hogs, steers, etc.. “The additional rider language is disastrous for producers and sets a terrible precedent for future appropriations bills,”  NSAC’s blog states. The Montana senator has introduced a separate amendment that would nullify this provision as well.

SECTION 735

SEC. 735. In the event that a determination of non-
4 regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the
5 Plant Protection Act is or has been invalidated or vacated,
6 the Secretary of Agriculture shall, notwithstanding any
7 other provision of law, upon request by a farmer, grower,
8 farm operator, or producer, immediately grant temporary
9 permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to
10 necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with sec-
11 tion 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which
12 interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduc-
13 tion, continued cultivation, commercialization and other
14 specifically enumerated activities and requirements, in-
15 cluding measures designed to mitigate or minimize poten-
16 tial adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the
17 Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated
18 status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able
19 to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and
20 carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner:
21 Provided, That all such conditions shall be applicable only
22 for the interim period necessary for the Secretary to com-
23 plete any required analyses or consultations related to the
24 petition for non-regulated status: Provided further, That
25 nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the 81
U:\2013REPT\CONF\March CR\Bills\DIV A–AG1MAR CR T7.xml [file 8 of
29]
SEN. APPRO.
1 Secretary’s authority under section 411, 412 and 414 of
2 the Plant Protection Act.

This had been turned down earlier. As Mother Jones explains:

In what became known as the biotech rider, the provision would have allowed the planting of genetically modified crop varieties even if a federal judge rules that they have been approved by the USDA improperly—as happened, for example, in 2010, when a federal judge issued an injunction against the planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets on the grounds that the USDA had approved them without a substantial environmental review.

Reference: http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/03/yet-again-agribiz-sneaks-friendly-riders-unrelated-bill

The best general summary I have found of what and why Monsanto and others are spending so much time and money on lobbying the US Congress is also in Mother Jones.

http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/07/gmo-industry-flexes-its-muscles-capitol-hill