The nonprofit Center for Food Safety is sounding the alarm about a provision buried deep in the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would allow the continued sale and planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops while health hazards are assessed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The rider, called the “farmer assurance provision” is considered a blatant handout to Monsanto, the maker of GE seeds—and the herbicides they are designed to withstand—for a host of “Roundup Ready” crops, including corn and soybeans. The provision would strip the federal courts of their ability to prevent the sale or planting of a GE crop—even if the crop is deemed illegal—during the course of a USDA investigation.
The Center for Food Safety joined with other consumer advocacy groups, including Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth, in submitting a letter denouncing the provision. The letter reminds lawmakers that contamination of crops from GE plants has had major economic consequences in the past. There was StarLink—a corn approved only for animal and industrial uses—that contaminated half of Iowa’s corn crop in 2000 though it had been planted in just 1% of cornfields. It led to the recall of over 300 food products and resulted in a $110 million settlement for farmers. And they note: “In 2006, Bayer CropScience’s unapproved GE rice varieties, LibertyLink 601 and 604, contaminated the U.S. long grain rice supplies, massively disrupted rice exports and caused economic damages of over $1 billion.”
This provision would essentially open the door to more contamination episodes by forcing the USDA to “immediately approve all permits for continued planting of an ‘unapproved’ biotech crop…”
“This is nothing more than a Monsanto profit assurance provision,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. “There is no doubt that the objective of this explosive Appropriations bill insertion is to empower a single corporation and a few of its industry friends to move beyond the control of the U.S. courts, USDA and public review to make their own rules and profit from slippery backdoor politics.”
It is not the first time that consumer advocacy and environmental groups have sounded the alarm about Monsanto’s favored position with the U.S. government. Last year saw significant outcry over the nomination of Islam Siddiqui as chief agriculture negotiator for the U.S. Siddiqui was a former lobbyist for CropLife America which counts Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow among its members. Organic Consumers Association runs the Millions Against Monsanto initiative which organizes rallies, follows ballot initiatives and encourages political action against the biotech giant.