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House Republicans Push Monsanto Protection Act

Sep 13, 2013

House Republicans are pushing inclusion of the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” a highly controversial measure concerning genetically modified (GM) seeds, into the spending bill.

The Farmer Assurance Provision, nicknamed the Monsanto Protection Act, was a rider that made it into the prior spending resolution, which is now set to expire, according to the Huffington Post. House Republicans are including an extension, which is meant to stop a government shutdown, according to legislation just released by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (Republican-Kentucky). Monsanto is a giant in the field of GM crops.

More and more, companies have been voluntarily labeling their products with genetically modified organism (GMO) indications, which have become a highly contentious issue in the food business. Some two-dozen states are pending on a decision regarding labeling requirements; the biotech industry has been fighting against GMO labeling with intense lobbying; and many consumers strongly object to consuming GMO foods and have long sought foods that are non-GMO, such as certified organic meats that are non-GMO fed, and non-GMO crops.

The issue of GM crops, and the animals fed those crops, is gaining traction. A recent study revealed some potential health problems, including digestive issues, associated with GM crops and involved research conducted with Australian scientists and United States researchers.

Biotech seeds are genetically altered to grow into crops with an increased tolerance for herbicides and pests; critics say that the DNA changes that create the so-called “transgenic plants,” created from DNA from other bacteria and species, also creates new proteins, which can lead to digestive issues, which was seen in the recent U.S.-Australia study. Adverse health effects could potentially occur in humans who consume these crops, Reuters noted, which is significant given that GM crops are used in the U.S., Latin America, and other countries.

A prior French study linked GM corn to cancer in rats and found that rats fed a diet of Monsanto’s GM corn, or who were exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, suffered from tumors and multiple organ damage, according to Reuters previously. The lead researcher for this study has a reputation for being an industry critic, which is expected to spark even more controversy over GM food crops and GMOs.

Meanwhile, the law in question stops judges from placing injunctions on GM seeds, regardless of their safety. For its part, Monsanto argued that singling out its name is not fair because other agribusinesses support the Farmer Assurance Provision, the Huffington Post reported. Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat-Oregon), who has fought hard against the measure, told the Huffington Post that he plans to fight the measure’s re-enactment. "The proposed House continuing resolution includes an extension of the Monsanto Protection Act, a secret rider slipped into a must-pass spending bill earlier this year," Merkley said. "I will fight the House's efforts to extend this special interest loophole that nullifies court orders that are protecting farmers, the environment, and public health."

In a statement, Colin O’Neil, a lobbyist for the Center for Food Safety, said, "It is extremely disappointing to see the damaging 'Monsanto Protection Act' policy rider extended in the House spending bill. Hundreds of thousands of Americans called their elected officials to voice their frustration and disappointment over the inclusion of the 'Monsanto Protection Act' this past spring. Its inclusion is a slap in the face to the American public and our justice system," the Huffington Post reported.

According to the Huffington Post, Senator Merkley and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (Democrat-Michigan) publicly opposed the provision in future legislation, speaking on the Senate floor: "The Monsanto Protection Act refers to a policy rider the House slipped into the recently passed continuing resolution and sent over to the Senate. Because of the time-urgent consideration of this must-pass legislation—necessary to avert a government shutdown—this policy rider slipped through without examination or debate.”

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