You, as a food buyer, have the distinct privilege of proactively participating in shaping the world your children will inherit. - Joel Salatin, Polyface Farms
Last Tuesday, President Obama signed a bill called the "Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013." Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal because it's just a bill that provides funding to a bunch of federal agencies. However, within this bill there was a section, Section 733/735, which has been termed by people against Monsanto as the "Monsanto Protection Act" and people in support of Monsanto as the "Farmer's Assurance Provision."
What is the Monsanto Protection Act?
In a few words, this act 1) allows for growers to cultivate and continue to grow bitotech plants that have been previously approved by the USDA, but are now facing legal challenges due to questions about the safety of the GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or GE seeds (genetically engineered seeds) used in their production, and 2) prevents federal courts from banning the sale or cultivation of biotech crops even if studies and research shows that there are negative health, safety, and/or environmental consequences.
Dave Murphy, the founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now stated, "[it] opened a new line of credit when they got this thing passed...It is basically a corporate handout to Monsanto."
What does all of this mean?
1) Corporate Interests Over Public Safety: The evidence to support that GMOs are safe for public consumption in the long run is still inconclusive, but Monsanto, Dow, and other biotech firms can still sell to farmers and farmers can cultivate GMO crops. In essence, corporate profitability has become more of a priority than public safety. In fact, there are a number of sources that point to the potential dangers of GMOs, both in terms of health and environmental sustainability. I won't go into them too much here, but some of the studies are pretty shocking.
2) Shady Politics: The way this act was signed was pretty shady. First of all, many members of Congress that signed the bill did not know that it contained this section with the biotech rider because it was kind of hidden into the funding bill. Also, the rider was written in collaboration with Monsanto itself, so Monsanto had a lot of input into the language that was used in the rider. Lastly, the bill was passed so quickly that it did not go through review from the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees.
3) Potential for Increased Compromise of Consumer Protection: As stated by the International Business Times, "It set a terrible precedent...the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side." Corporations really don't need another avenue for them to manipulate the system.
What can we do now?
So the bill has been passed, and for the next 6 months the Monsanto Protection Act is in place. But that doesn't mean we are totally powerless. The next step, as a consumer, is to ask for all of the information. If our food is genetically modified, we should know -- we should call our government to action and ask that our food be labeled for GMOs. If you haven't already, please please please take a second to sign this petition on Food Democracy Now.