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With every bill passed in Congress, there is good news and bad news. The good news of HR 933 passing the House: we avoided a government shutdown (for now). The bad news: Congress authorized a provision known as the "Monsanto Protection Act," protecting the agricultural giant from litigation.

From The Russian Times:

"The US House of Representatives quietly passed a last-minute addition to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for 2013 last week - including a provision protecting genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks.

The rider, which is officially known as the Farmer Assurance Provision, has been derided by opponents of biotech lobbying as the "Monsanto Protection Act," as it would strip federal courts of the authority to immediately halt the planting and sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed crop regardless of any consumer health concerns."

Senator Jon Tester from Montana was the only opponent (which surely will come back to bite him in the ass in his next election cycle, when his opponent will say he "opposed preventing a government shutdown" and "wants us to fall into an economic rut" or something stupid).

The protection bill is dangerous for a few reasons. First, a lot of the people who voted for this didn't know they were voting on this particular addition, because they didn't read the whole bill. The protection provision was included anonymously, pointing to back room wheeling and dealing, and it was packed into a bill trying to keep the government from shutting down.

Second, Monsanto has a history of litigation with their genetically engineered crops - they fought with DuPont over rights to genetically altered crops, they were found liable for a farmer's memory loss and physical problems from inhaling their weedkiller, and recent studies have shown that the company's engineered crops are leading to infertility in cattle and declining plant health. If they are protected from litigation, the company can continue to make dangerous products with no legal ramifications - allowing them to turn a profit while people, animals, and the environment suffer, not entirely unlike 2005's Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and its protection of the gun industry.

And third, the Monsanto Protection Act is also dangerous because it sets a nasty precedent for future consumer protection cases. From the International Business Times:

"Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right."
It's a continuation on the trend of corporations getting away with shafting their customers out of millions, leaving consumers worse for the wear and letting corporations off scot-free. Big Banks, the ones Too Big to Fail, cost customers billions of dollars only to be bailed out and refuse to pay back the taxpayers after making record profits. They take up a huge chunk of our economy and can make higher profits risking working families' money than conducting ethical banking business, and they're not being held accountable for that. Even champions like Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fighting for consumers and hard-working Americans who got hosed, it's still not enough.  Big Pharma has gotten away with murder for years - right now, they're fighting pressure from the Obama administration to stop the "pay to delay" practice of keeping generics off the pharmaceutical market for years - keeping millions of Americans from being able to afford the drugs they need, and allowing Big Pharma to make millions off of their exclusive drugs.

With this deal, Big Agriculture is stepping up its game in consumer abuses and stopping consumers from holding them accountable for their actions. And that is wrong. The government should be protecting consumers, not big companies. If the products or services that a company provides to its customers are faulty, risky, or dangerous, they should be willing to either take them off the market or be held legally responsible for them.

This deal is nothing new - but it's a disturbing pattern of "more of the same," and further proof that our government isn't doing enough to protect us from Big Business and special interests.

Originally posted to AlexPalombo on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 12:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and Environmental Foodies.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A Democratic Senator (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jrooth, paradise50, blue91

    inserted the Monsanto Protection Act into the bill when it was in the Senate, but I just can't figure out which one!

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 12:10:17 PM PDT

    •  Barbara Mikulski would know (6+ / 0-)

      since it happened in the Appropriations Committee, which she chairs.

      By the way, the text of HR 933 is available is available here (pdf document).  The "Farmer Assurance Provision" is section 735, which can be found on page 78:

      SEC. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act 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 Act.
      Note that word "shall".  I've seen some industry types claim this only gives the secretary that option - but this looks like there is no choice.

      The text of the Plant Protection Act referenced in the above can be found here (pdf document.)

      “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

      by jrooth on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 12:35:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sen. Mikulski doesn't support it, couldn't stop it (9+ / 0-)

        "The American public have relied on Senate Democrats to be a backstop against dangerous policy riders like this," said Colin O'Neil, director of government affairs for the Center for Food Safety. "We call on [Mikulski] to ensure that this rider is stricken from any future appropriations bills."

        But, O'Neil added, the language did not originate with Mikulski. Rather, it was included in legislation that had been developed before she took the chairmanship. Democratic leaders, including Mikulski, were under pressure to pass a funding a bill quickly as Democrats and Republicans in Congress were eager to demonstrate they could deal with a budget deadline without creating the type of fiscal showdown that has defined the last several years.

        Congress had until March 27 to pass a funding bill or shut down the government.

        Mikulski picked up the previously agreed-to language and attached it, largely unchanged, to the funding legislation. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, offered an amendment to strike the language from the bill but that amendment never received a vote.

        "Her hands were tied by the negotiations that had previously happened," O'Neil said of Mikulski. "We recognize that the tough spot she was in."

        O'Neil said food safety groups nevertheless hope to keep the pressure on Mikulski to get the language removed later this year, when the government must pass its next round of funding legislation.

        In a statement, Mikulski's office said the senator "understands the anger over this provision. She didn’t put the language in the bill and doesn’t support it, either."

        "Senator Mikulski has a strong food safety record," the statement read. "As chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Mikulski's first responsibility was to prevent a government shutdown. That meant she had to compromise on many of her own priorities to get a bill through the Senate that the House would pass."

        Bolding mine.

        Least thanks to the GOP House holding the economy hostage, Sen. Mikulski can correct the error when the spending bills have to be passed again.

        •  Maybe so ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          citisven, paradise50

          although I question why Senator Tester's amendment didn't get a vote (surely that would be in her power as chair to accomplish.)

          And at any rate - she still would know who did put the language in.  Or is the claim that that Appropriations Committee doesn't keep records of its proceedings?

          “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

          by jrooth on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 01:17:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A caveat to the above (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Eyesbright, paradise50

            I may have misunderstood - it's unclear from the story whether Tester's amendment was offered in committee or on the floor.  If the latter, then it's on Harry Reid, not Mikulski.

            Don't get me wrong - I like Mikulski for the most part.

            “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

            by jrooth on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 01:22:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Roy Blount, Monsanto sponsored senator, did it (0+ / 0-)
    •  I am also (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paradise50, Debby

      very curious to know which Senator inserted this into the bill. A lot of the random things I am seeing floating around give blame alternatively to Obama (presumably just for signing it) and Mikulski.

  •  Label that GMO crap (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DeepLooker, citisven, paradise50

    Label it so that we can tell what's in our food. And to let us know what NOT to buy.

  •  Thanks for this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilJD, paradise50

    I'm surprised I haven't seen this travesty of a provision on the rec list.

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    by citisven on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 01:25:46 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for this. I am seeing sheer stupidity (7+ / 0-)

    going around on Facebook (i know, i know) of people falling for the usual "Obama betrayed us and wants to kill us!" posts from the far left, and sadly from  respected outlets, implying this is all his fault, once again.

    The whole funding bill was passed with a veto-proof majority.

    I'm all for the labeling of GMOs and avoid them myself but we have to understand how this rider got through if want to make it happen.

    •  Here's an article with facts (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paradise50, arch, G Jones

      I'm seeing the same crap on Facebook that you mentioned and it's galling, to say the least.  I held on to this article to have something for people to read who aren't buying in to the hysteria:

      To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men. -Abraham Lincoln

      by Eyesbright on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 03:02:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        for the article. But this statement: "The provision was slipped into the legislation anonymously." is galling, to say the least. There is no way it should even be possible for these sorts of things to be inserted anonymously.

    •  I'm also wondering why (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paradise50, alain2112

      the diarist used this for a source:

      The Russian Times
      RT is the first Russian 24/7 English-language news channel which brings the Russian view on global news.

      It shouldn't be difficult to find numerous more reliable sources with less opportunity for anti-American propaganda, subtle though it may be at times.  

      To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men. -Abraham Lincoln

      by Eyesbright on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 03:17:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ...there was a diary a few weeks back... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, citisven

    ...wherein the diarist, obamalover20122,railed against Bill Maher being anti-vaccination and anti-GMO.

    I must admit I got involved in that diary in a way I rarely do.

    The diarist went on about how anyone wanting GMO foods labled is simply unscientific.

    I am personal friends with the co-sponsors of Prop. 37 in California that, if passed, would have had GMO foods labeled. It lost 51.5% to 48.5% after Monsanto pumped $millions in ads claiming that if that were to happen the cost of food would go up $400 per person per year in California....that is just a bald-faced lie.

    After a bunch of back and forth, it became obvious the whole problem this person had was there was no scientific reason for GMO  foods to be labeled.

    Later on, after more back and forth, he admitted his real problem was that it might hurt the profits of corporations.

    How sad!

    My question is why then does Monsanto need total immunity for any law suits for any reason?

    I'm not dissing on obamalover20211, just the "logic" that GMO foods don't need labeling due to there being no scientific reason they should be.

    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences.

    by paradise50 on Thu Mar 28, 2013 at 03:10:11 PM PDT

  •  Why did Obama sign this? Why did he appoint (0+ / 0-)

    Michael Taylor, a Monsanto lobbyist, as the head of the FDA?  If that is not a fox guarding the hen house, nothing is.  

    It's so shameful that our own government allows a couple of chemical companies to monopolize our food supply, especially one that develops genetically modified seeds that can withstand more and stronger herbicides to be applied, poisoning the soil, our water, and polliting our air in the process.  

    I don't know how they've gotten away with convincing anyone that the kinds of chemical herbicides they choose to use is a good thing to put into the ground when growing food.  

  •  GMO truthers are about as ignorant (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G Jones

    as creationists and climate change truthers.

    All three are anti-science conspiracy theorists.

  •  Liberals have a habit of believing urban legends (0+ / 0-)

    when it suits our worldview, and this is an example of that.  There is no "Monsanto Protection Act."

    •  that's because its real name (0+ / 0-)

      is the "farmer's assurance act" or something like that.

      people are renaming it for public awareness purposes to show the truth of the actual purpose of the bill.

      Deficits don't matter, jobs do.

      by aguadito on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 03:17:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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