The Hill protects Monsanto, undermines justice

April 4, 2013

Last Tuesday, President Obama signed HR 933 into law with little fanfare. A continuing resolution designed to provide stopgap funding to the government for the next six months, the spending bill represented Washington’s continued inability to carry out the most basic functions of government.

Yet the ostensibly irreconcilable parties did manage to agree on one thing: included in the bill was a provision that protects biotech companies in the event that their genetically engineered (GE) crops are found to be harmful. The provision, dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act after the leading producer of  GE seeds, is an unjust piece of legislation.

Much remains unknown about the long-term effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and the arguable success they have had in improving global food availability is not grounds to grant legal immunity to companies producing them.

The text of the Monsanto Protection Act would prevent courts from blocking the planting of GE crops even if evidence suggests that such foods are detrimental to human health or the environment. Judicial oversight is a crucial part of the checks and balances that protect Americans from harm at the hands of their own government and the special interests that collude with it. By leaving federal judges powerless, the Monsanto Protection Act weakens our democracy and leaves farmers, consumers, and the environment at great risk of abuse.

Corporate giant Monsanto, which dominates the global GMO industry and possesses a massive stake in the U.S. agricultural-industrial complex, argues that the text will allow farmers to grow their crops and not face arbitrary delays from litigation brought by opponents of genetic modification. The company points out that GE products would still be subject to a regulatory review process, but the reality is that this provision undermines an already insufficient review and approval process for GMOs.

Perhaps more distressing than the text of the provision is the manner in which it was approved by both houses of Congress and the president. Despite vocal opposition from constituents and food safety advocacy organizations, the provision was included in the spending bill and passed without a full hearing. Given Congress’s inability to pass a real budget, the spending bill was necessary to allow the government to function until fiscal year 2014, but this was no excuse for legislators to rubber stamp sweeping protections for interests contrary to those of the American people.

It is disappointing that political leaders acted so unquestioningly to further the interests of large agricultural corporations, even as they fail to make any progress in addressing the concerns of average Americans.  Though it will last only six months—provided that civil society prevents its inclusion in the government’s FY 2014 budget—the Monsanto Protection Act represents a threat to public health and safety. But more importantly, it underscores the continued cynicism and compromised integrity of our political leaders.

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The Editorial Board is the official opinion of the Georgetown Voice. Its current composition can be found on the masthead. The Board strives to publish critical analyses of events at both Georgetown and in the wider D.C. community. We welcome everyone from all backgrounds and experience levels to join us!


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We’re feeling the same protectionism for incumbent dirty energy companies and the politicians just ignore how many high quality jobs were created by renewable energy companies lately, instead concentrating only on how many hazardous fossil fuel industry jobs could be potentially lost. Food, energy, healthcare. It’s all the same. The Nation’s politicians resist progress and hurt our health and prosperity in multiple ways.

But we’re fighting back with a virally growing legion of supporters who are also compensated nicely for spreading the word and pushing progressive ideas forward. Your battle is our battle. Come join us here: