September 18, 2013
The agrichemical companies may have the best lobbyists in town. Last May, the agrichemical giants — Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont, BASF — pulled off a stunning maneuver to protect their massive profits. They secured a new type of corporate earmark, getting legislation signed into law that requires the continued sale of products even if the products are determined to be unlawfully approved. In plain English, that means that these companies could have legal protection to continue selling their products even if the courts pulled the products from the market. Dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act”, it means agrichemical companies are protected from the agencies and federal courts that are meant to protect us. Set to expire at the end of September, the Monsanto Protection Act is back before Congress and consumers are justifiably upset.
Monsanto and pals are right to be worried. These companies make chemical herbicides that are applied to farm crops. They also make seeds which are genetically engineered to survive the herbicides. Consumers are wising up. When faced with an informed choice, consumers reject the chemical-based, genetically engineered (GE) agriculture that make these corporations rich.
These companies can see the writing on the wall and they are doing everything they can to keep the windfalls coming. In California they spent over $45 million on a misleading campaign to defeat Proposition 37, and only won with a narrow 3 percent margin. Just recently, Monsanto put $4.6 million into a similar ballot initiative in Washington State. DuPont put in $3.2 million and pledged another million.
Even spending tens of millions of dollars to keep consumers in the dark, these companies know that consumers will eventually win. Twenty-six states have introduced bills to require GE food labeling. Which takes us to Washington D.C. and back to last May.
Last Spring Congress was considered a short term “continuing resolution” to keep the government operating for an additional six months. This kind of maneuver is becoming increasingly common as Congress has been unable to pass a comprehensive budget. Late in the negotiations Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri introduced a section to the funding resolution called the “farmer assurance provision” which became known as the Monsanto Protection Act.
Although it was originally introduced anonymously, it was quickly discovered that a senator from Monsanto’s home state introduced the legislation. Thousands of people called Congress and signed petitions demanding that the agrichemical companies be treated fairly.
The only silver lining of the Monsanto Protection Act was that it was part of a six-month funding bill. That means that after six months, the act would expire on September 30, 2013. However, the House of Representatives released new legislation to fund the federal government for an additional three months. And that new legislation authorizes the very same Monsanto Protection Act.
The question now becomes: Are we going to let them get away with it? Who pulls more weight in Congress? The agrichemical companies or the American people?