On March 26, President signed spending bill HR 933 into law. It included the Farmer Assurance Provision, what opponents of that section renamed the “Monsanto Protection Act,” according to the International Business Times.
Organic farmers and food consumer advocates are irate that the content of the government’s spending bill passed by Congress was done so without their reading the bill thoroughly. Reportedly, members of Congress were unaware of the Monsanto protection component that forbids federal courts from stopping the sale and planting of genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, even though health issues might arise concerning GMOs in the future.
The emerging market for genetically modified seeds, driven by the Monsanto Company and their expansive use of GMO seeds in farms across America and internationally, has proved a huge boon for Monsanto's profits. Still, American farmers have pushed back with court cases in an effort to protect their rights to re-use native seeds for planting. Legal issues stem back to the 2007 US Supreme Court decision which protected Monsanto and declared farmers are required to buy the genetically modified seeds every year, rather than planting harvested seeds from the previous season. Farmers who buy seeds from an authorized dealer must agree that they won’t use any harvested seeds for planting.
The 2007 case initiated by Monsanto was against a farmer who sought to buy less expensive soybeans from a grain elevator. Because the elevator accepted harvests from farmers using Monsanto seeds, the second-generation beans proved to be herbicide-resistant. When Monsanto found out about the practice, the company sued the farmer.
Monsanto claims protecting their patents on seeds produces a continuous yearly income from farmers and ensures their ability to continue research and development; however, it also allows Monsanto to monopolize the market for their GMO seeds.
Another case was heard by the US Supreme Court in February of this year against Monsanto when a soybean farmer in Indiana took his case against Monsanto to the highest court in the land. Justice, a former lawyer for Monsanto, did not recuse himself—again. He also did not recuse himself from the 2007 court case. Early reports from the February hearing suggest the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Monsanto.
How did Monsanto become so powerful?
Monsanto has a dark history of favoring profits over consumer safety and protection of farmers' rights, documented by the website bestmeal.info.
Monsanto started out in 1901 as primarily a seed company and became the world’s largest, but it has been evolving for more than 100 years and is now an industrial chemical company dealing primarily in agricultural products.
Best known now for its agricultural biotechnology GMO products, it also has an extensive history creating some of the most toxic substances know to humankind.
During World War II, Monsanto participated in the Manhattan Project, responsible for the creation of the first nuclear bomb. Its facilities in Dayton, Ohio, operated a nuclear facility for the federal government in Miamisburg, also in Ohio -- called the Mound Project -- until the 1980s.
Chemical production of PCBs was taken over by Monsanto in 1929 from the German who discovered it as a product of coal tar. PCBs were then used in the US as dielectric and coolant fluids, for example in transformers, capacitors, and electric motors. Its environmental toxicity and cancer risk in animals and humans resulted in it being classified as a persistent organic pollutant and production was banned in the US in 1979. However, many products remain in circulation containing PCBs that were made before 1979.
Agent Orange, also a Monsanto product, is an herbicide and defoliant used by the US military for chemical warfare in Vietnam from 1961 to 1971. Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed and 500,000 children born with birth defects as a result of its use. The Red Cross of Vietnam says approximately 1 million people are disabled or have adverse health effects, including cancer, due to Agent Orange.
Monsanto has been repeatedly fined and ruled against for mislabeling containers of the herbicide Roundup, failing to report health data to EPA, chemical spills and improper chemical deposition, according to the report. Their name has become synonymous worldwide symbolizing the greed and arrogance of multinational corporation business practices.
Corporate welfare and congressional carelessness
The Business Times, together with information from other media outlets, listed five terrifying facts about the Farmer Assurance Provision -- Section 735 of the spending bill HR933:
1. The "Monsanto Protection Act" effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of controversial genetically modified (aka GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) seeds, no matter what health issues may arise concerning GMOs in the future.
2. The provision's language was written in collusion with Monsanto. Lawmakers and companies working together to craft legislation. Sen. actually worked with Monsanto on a provision that in effect allows them to keep selling seeds, which can be planted even if they are found to be harmful to consumers, which is another example of corporations bending Congress to their will.(R-Mo.)
3. Some congressmen did not know what was in the bill when they voted for it. HR933 was meant to avert a government shut down, and some Democrats received criticism from the the Center for Food Safety. “In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. (Barbara) Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the center, said in a statement. “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”
4. Obama signed HR 933 while the nation debated same-sex marriage and the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments concerning California's Proposition 8. Opponents of the "Monsanto Protection Act" were getting signatures of 250,000 voters who signed a petition opposing the provision. And Food Democracy Now protesters even took their fight straight to Obama, protesting in front of the White House against Section 735 of the bill.
5. It sets both an adverse moral and civil precedent. 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 maneuver away from consumer safety protections if they can buy votes in Congress. Furthermore, it sets a precedent suggesting court challenges are a privilege, not a civil right.
The Monsanto protection component has food and consumer advocates and organic farmers up in arms over their contention that the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act" is a giveaway to corporations that was passed under the cover of darkness by Congress and signed into law by Obama. This kind of legislative maneuver does not promote trust in government and increases the credibility gap between the electorate and the Congress.