Merkley: Amend Monsanto Protection Act
May 20, 2013, 10:35 pm
It's formally known as the Farmer Assurance Provision. But it's opponents have given it the name the "Monsanto Protection Act".
Whatever you call it, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is leading the fight to reverse it.
The law was tucked into a piece of budgetary legislation, H.R. 933, and passed with flying colors in the House and Senate. You may remember the bill because it was amongst the actions taken on Capitol Hill to avoid a March 27th government shutdown. All five Oregon Congressmen voted for H.R. 933 with the exception of Representative Kurt Schrader.
Merkley and others are outraged because the provision allows agricultural companies (like Monsanto) to ignore court orders and continue to sell genetically-engineered seeds even if it's determined the seeds or its resulting crops are deemed unsafe.
The New York Daily News reports, US Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) “worked with Monsanto to craft the language in the bill” that was buried 78 pages in the continuing resolution spending bill.
Both Oregon Senators Merkley and Ron Wyden voted yes, bringing the senate vote total to a lop-sided 73-26.
President Obama signed the bill into law March 19th, despite a petition drawing 250,000 signatures begging him to veto the bill.
Merkley says the fight to amend what's already done will be steep "for the same reasons it was snuck in in the first place, it might be hard to get all 100 senators to say yes, letting the amendment come up".
What's perhaps more concerning then the actual issue of GMO crops is how the Farmer Assurance Provision became law in the first place.
When asked if Merkley read the bill before he voted, he said he did not "That is the unfortunate case, that we got it the last second". He went onto to point out that it took experts days to figure out what had happened after it was already passed in the house "You can read this language and you wouldn't know what this was unless someone had pointed this out and briefed you on what it was, and nobody figured it out." Merkley said.
Merkley is outraged at the process and says he has always supported a 72 hour waiting period before voting. "I'm 100% concerned, it's an outrageous process. You take a situation like this where it took experts combing through the bill for a couple days to figure out what was going on, and to draw the attention of the world. And that is exactly why I am taking a stand that this should be pulled out of the law, because it was done in such an unacceptable, sereticious, and sneaky manner".
Listen to the entire interview with Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley:
Monsanto issued a response to MSN:
"As we understand it, the point of the Farmer Assurance Provision is to strike a careful balance allowing farmers to continue to plant and cultivate their crops subject to appropriate environmental safeguards, while USDA conducts any necessary further environmental reviews," Clauss wrote.
She said not only Monsanto, but other major grower groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Seed Trade Association, the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association supported the provision.
Clauss also provided a June 2012 letter to the House Committee on Appropriations signed by the groups cited as supporters.
"Opponents of agricultural biotechnology have repeatedly filed suits .... in order to disrupt the regulatory process and undermine the science-based regulation of such products," the letter claims. It says the litigation has impeded the availability of new technology to growers and consumers.
The letter calls the provision a "positive step" that assures growers "the crops they plant could continue to be grown, subject to appropriate interim conditions, even after a judicial ruling against USDA."
H.R. 933 in its entirety: