Repealing the Monsanto Protection Act
Food policy advocates have begun a campaign around repeal of the Monsanto Protection Act. The act was actually part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, which was passed to prevent (another) government shutdown. Buried in the fine print—Section 933—was the Farmer Assurance Provision, dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act by its critics. The act effectively barred US courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of genetically modified seed. The provision was actually drafted by Monsanto before being introduced to the provision through the House Appropriations Committee.
Not surprisingly, the provision has come under fire from critics, who see the act as a major concession to the biotech giant. In response, the NGO Food Democracy Now organized a petition calling on President Obama to issue an executive order requiring the mandatory labeling of GMOs. That petition has already garnered more than 300,000 signatures.
In a city defined by its partisan divide, the opposition to the Monsanto Protection Act has mobilized interests on both sides of the aisle. Tea Party Republicans are opposed to the act, viewing it as a special interest loophole and a precedent for corporate legal immunity. As one Tea Party activist put it,
This all can be boiled down into a single, common phrase: a special interest loophole, and a doozy at that. We are used to subsidies, which give your tax dollars to companies to give them advantages over competitors. We are used to special interest tax loopholes and tax credits, which provide competitive and financial benefits to those with friends in Congress. And we are familiar with regulatory burden increases, which often prevent smaller companies from competing against larger ones because of the cost of compliance.
However, this is a different kind of special interest giveaway altogether. This is a situation in which a company is given the ability to ignore court orders, in what boils down to a deregulation scheme for a particular set of industries.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) announced he will introduce an amendment to the Senate version of the farm bill that would repeal the Monsanto Protection act. According to a press release from Merkley’s office, “The Monsanto Protection Act is an outrageous example of a special interest loophole. This provision nullifies the actions of a court that is enforcing the law to protect farmers, the environment and public health. That is unacceptable.”
It’s nice to see Republicans and Democrats agreeing on something. Now if only they could find consensus on the farm bill.