The controversial provision nicknamed the “Monsanto Protection Act” was included by House Republicans in the bill to approve funding that is required to avoid a government shutdown.
The provision, set to expire, blocks judges from barring a genetically modified organism from being planted, even if it is deemed unsafe. Many nations have taken the opposite route and banned GMOs outright. The text of the bill the provision is tucked away in was released on Wednesday by House Appropriations Committee Chairman, and recipient of Monsanto campaign contributions in 2010 and 2012, Harold Rogers of Kentucky. The provision was extended for three months.
The controversial provision was almost repealed, until Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri opposed the bill. Blunt received campaign contributions in 2010 and 2012 from Monsanto. Multiple petitions have been ignored, some of which had over 100,000 signatures. The organizers of those petitions are not known to have contributed to the Senator or the Chairman from Kentucky.
Monsanto is a massive biotech company specializing in herbicides and genetically modified seeds; it officially objects to the nickname of the provision. It should be noted that other companies will benefit from what is officially titled as the Farmer Assurance Provision.
These large biotech firms patent their genetically modified seeds. When the GMO crop’s pollen contaminates a farm nearby, the farmer is then infringing on the patents of the corporation. Once an organic farmer’s crop is contaminated, the farmer loses access to many export markets that have banned GMO products.
Farmers' advocacy groups are taking the battle over this practice to the Supreme Court. The case will challenge Monsanto’s aggressive lawsuits over patents, and hopes to bar the biotech giant from suing farmers whose fields have been contaminated by their product.
The battle over GMO labeling is heading to a ballot initiative in Seattle. Advocates of GMOs oppose letting the consumer know if the food has been genetically altered, but supporters of the proposal say the cost to redesign labeling will be negligible. Initiative 522 will be on the November ballot, and as with all political campaigns, money is at the heart of the issue with those opposed to letting consumers know how their food is made raking in over 11 million dollars, with about 4.8 million dollars coming from Monsanto.
There is no clear end in sight in the battle over genetically altered foods, but Senator Jeff Merkley has announced that he will continue to fight against the reenactment of the “Monsanto Protection Act.”