If you’ve been on the internet any time since Tuesday, it is likely that you have seen something about what is being called the ‘Monsanto Protection Act.’ It always looks as if it is that the President has signed a bill giving complete immunity to the Missouri based corporation. But even a casual glance into this, and the whole argument falls apart.
‘Monsanto Protection Act’ Does Nothing Of The Sort.
What is being referred to is an amendment to the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013” signed into law on Tuesday. This act was implemented to avoid a government shutdown on Wednesday, by authorizing the president to pay the nations bills through October, when the new fiscal year begins. The particular provision being pointed to in this act is Section 735, within the agricultural portion of the bill. This section reads as follows:
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.
A bit wordy and complex, as laws tend to be. However, this is not a new measure, nor does it even mention Monsanto. This particular section is already law, passed as part of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, and was carried forward when that bill was merged in with numerous other ones to make this current bill.
What Does The Bill Do?
What this particular measure does is allow the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary deregulation status for a crop in the event that the crop is under litigation against the USDA’s approval of deregulation status. This is for the time period that the case is working through the courts. So, should an agro-company attempt to damage a competitor, such as Monsanto filing suit against competing crops, the crop may not be pulled from the shelves before the lawsuit is finished. Anybody can file a lawsuit in the United States. It would be incredibly easy for a competing firm to file a lawsuit against such a status for a crop grown by their competition. This would effectively freeze family farm competition out of the market for years. This measure simply ensures that will not happen.
This measure also relieves a lot from the USDA’s legal department. Months, and millions of dollars, can be spent fighting injunctions in the courts before the case ever goes before the judge. By this measure, that money can be saved, and the legal proceedings sped up accordingly. Instead of needing up to a year just to address an attempted injunction, the case can proceed much quicker, bypassing this step in the process. This also means that farmers, from the smallest family farms to the largest corporate giant, do not have to live in fear that their crop will be targeted by a competitor.
One can find the origin of this bill in 2010. The Supreme Court ruled in Monsanto vs Geertson Seed Farms that lower courts cannot prohibit the planting of crops during the litigation process. This rule is just the codification of the courts ruling, enabling the regulators to have a say in the process. Without it, there would be no process, and companies which do happen to produce a dangerous crop would have a free hand in planting. By codifying this, now the Secretary of Agriculture has final say. While the secretary can grant such a waiver, thanks to the Plant Protection Act they may also refuse to grant such a waiver. In other words, now there is a protection put in place, while before there was not. So much for a ‘Monsanto Protection Act.’
The Right-Wing Puppet Masters For Efforts To Overturn The Provision
But where did these attacks against the provision come from? You find the origins among the darker corners of the internet, with the shady astroturf groups more commonly associated with organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heritage Foundation. Conservative organizations fuel the idea, and let left-wing pundits go into the fight to attack… the bill meant to prevent the government from shutting down. but why Monsanto, why use that label when the bill could as easily apply to ConAgra, US Sugar, or one of hundreds of other agricultural businesses?
It’s because Monsanto is one of the largest corporate supporters of climate change science, and is actively working to help ring the alarm.
How Dangerous Are GMO’s?
The concerns over these crops comes from fear. People instinctively understand sex, and how that produces children. They do not instinctively understand gene splicing, even though that is how sex produces children in the first place. Most people do not have time to go out and understand it, so they label such modified products as “frankenfoods” and build fear upon lack of information, or worse purposeful misinformation fed by other industries who seek to hurt some related cause, such as climate change science. The fact is, some genetically modified crops have been shown to have substantial benefits. GMO’s can be more resistant to disease, add essential nutrients, and even fight climate change. Genetic modification through direct gene splicing has been done since 1970, and is widely understood after decades of research and application.
Even snopes was quick to discredit the claims about the bill, finding it a mixture of fact and fiction, with the main claims of it granting immunity from prosecution as false. Monsanto would not be protected under this bill.
Not only that, but this bill passed both houses of Congress with a filibuster proof majority. Even if it was as bad as some people are claiming the President couldn’t have vetoed it if he wanted to.
The bill as signed did not provide immunity to Monsanto or any other company, it only brought US Code into compliance with the Supreme Courts ruling, while also speeding up the litigation process over unregulated food crops.