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Richardson writes: "After a series of court defeats over the past few years, Monsanto and friends are trying to use Congress to make an end-run around the courts and current law."

Monsanto lobbyists have had success in getting Congress and the FDA to insulate them from the courts. (photo:  Millions Against Monsanto)
Monsanto lobbyists have had success in getting Congress and the FDA to insulate them from the courts. (photo:  Millions Against Monsanto)

Monsanto's Quiet Coup

By Jill Richardson, PRWatch

01 August 12


fter a series of court defeats over the past few years, Monsanto and friends are trying to use Congress to make an end-run around the courts and current law. Lawsuits brought by opponents of genetically engineered (GE) crops resulted in the temporary removal of two products - Roundup Ready Alfalfa and Roundup Ready Sugarbeets - from the market. If the biotechnology industry and the legislators they support have their way, future GE crops will not suffer the same fate.

Genetically engineered crops are plants that have had genes from other species inserted into their DNA. "Roundup Ready"crops like alfalfa and sugarbeets fall in a class of GE crops called "herbicide tolerant" crops, which are engineered to survive exposure to Monsanto's bestselling herbicide Roundup. Farmers spray their entire fields with Roundup, killing only the weeds. Monsanto profits by selling both the seeds and increased quantities of Roundup herbicide.

The "Big 6" pesticide and genetic engineering corporations - BASF, Bayer, Dupont, Dow, Syngenta, and Monsanto - have made millions while providing everyone else with questionable benefits and enormous risks. The riskiness of genetically engineered crops comes in part from their ability to cross-pollinate crops in other fields, spreading their genes far and wide. Once a new genetically engineered crop is introduced, the genie is out of the bottle, and those genes are in our food supply for good. Therefore, it's in everyone's interest (except for the biotech companies that stand to profit) to thoroughly examine any new crop before allowing it on the market.

GMOs Roll on Wheels Reagan Greased

The scene was initially set before the first genetically engineered crops existed, when the pro-industry Reagan administration crafted a lax regulatory framework (known as the "Coordinated Framework") requiring no new laws to regulate genetically engineered crops and animals, thus avoiding any public national debate on the issue. Instead, newly created GE plants would be treated as potential "pests" to other plants and reviewed by government agencies under stilted standards about whether the GE plants hurt other plants or protected animals like endangered species.

With the Coordinated Framework in place, the biotech industry had little to worry about. It had plenty of friends inside the USDA and the bar for "proving" its products were "not a pest" was not set terribly high. One after another, each genetically engineered crop was deregulated, allowing farmers to grow them commercially. Once they reached consumers, the products were not even labeled as "Genetically Modified Organisms" (GMOs), and many Americans had no idea their food had even changed.

Farmers and Consumer Groups Call a Halt in Court

Everything was going along fine for industry, in fact, until the matter went to court. At issue was the deregulation of two crops, Roundup Ready alfalfa and Roundup Ready sugarbeets. Instead of completing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to deregulating the crops, the USDA had only performed a more limited Environmental Assessment (EA). Performing an EA limits the level of public involvement in the assessment process as compared with an EIS, which can provide significant time for citizens to submit comments and concerns. For example, the USDA recently received 365,000 comments from citizens opposing the deregulation of Dow's GE "2,4-D corn" (2,4-D is an herbicide that was an ingredient in Agent Orange).

In both cases, Geertson Seed Farms v. Johanns and Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, the courts ruled that the respective crops could not be deregulated until a full EIS was completed. Furthermore, the crops in question could not be planted until then -- even during the appeals process.

The USDA completed the required EIS's for both crops and, despite thousands of comments expressing concerns, approved the deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa in January 2011 and Roundup Ready sugarbeets in July 2012.

2012 "Ag Approps" Gives Props to the "Big 6"

This regulatory victory was not good enough for industry, however. Quietly, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) wrote a gift to biotech companies into the 2013 agriculture appropriations ("Ag Approps") bill. Opponents of GMOs refer to this as the "Monsanto Protection Act." Beneficiaries of Kingston's "rider" to the bill (Section 733) - such as Monsanto, which lobbied for it in the second quarter of 2012 - refer to it as the "farmer assurance provision."

If the Ag Approps bill passes as written, if a court removes a GMO from the market after the USDA has deregulated it, the USDA will be required to grant a permit to plant that crop to any farmer who requests one, even if that crop's safety is in question or under review.

Buried Biotech Treasure in the 2012 Farm Bill

At the same time, another far-reaching provision favoring the biotech industry is in the works. Buried in the House version of the 2012 Farm Bill, sponsored by House Agriculture Committee chair Frank Lucas (R-OK), is an enormous gift to the biotech industry. The bill changes the Plant Protection Act (PPA) to limit the time and scope of future environmental assessments of GE crops.

The House farm bill as changed by Congressman Lucas alters the legal rules to cut corners on the environmental review by requiring only the more limited EA and by requiring the USDA to complete that review in a maximum period of a year and a half - or else the GE crop is automatically approved. It also restricts the scope of that limited environmental review and forbids the spending of any money on any broader environmental analysis of the effect of the GMO.

The time limits set by Lucas make haste the official policy of the USDA. For details, see Biotech Riders in the 2012 Farm Bill on SourceWatch. As Dave Murphy, Executive Director of Food Democracy Now!, put it, the pro-biotech language hidden in the bill "will take the U.S. regulatory scheme on GMOs from farce to corporate fascism in one fell swoop."

How did this language find its way into the bill? Monsanto and others have been lobbying Congress on the "regulation of products of agricultural biotechnology under [the] Plant Protection Act and National Environmental Policy Act." Dow Chemical joined Monsanto, lobbying specifically on "deregulation of genetically modified organisms under the Plant Protection Act."

The public lobbying reports do not tell the full story of what Monsanto and Dow wanted specifically and how much money they have spent in the multitude of ways they seek to influence and pressure Congress, but - as they say - the proof is in the pudding. Which companies have submitted petitions to the USDA for deregulation of GMOs that would benefit most from the 90-day time limit written into the bill? Monsanto and Dow.

With the Future of Food on the Table, "Big 6" Play With "Weighty" Dice

With these measures buried in enormous bills that are considered "must pass" in order to fund government agencies and determine farm subsidies, the industry and its allies are continuing to avoid an open, honest, full national debate about the safety and risks of GMOs. Congress must pass bills to fund U.S. agriculture policy unless it decides to temporarily extend the terms of the Bush era farm bill.

Even though the USDA approved Monsanto's GMO beets and alfalfa over objections from organic farmers and other concerned citizens, the courts required a full EIS review that allowed the public to weigh in with an array of concerns that exist or are emerging about GE crops. But if the law is changed, as sought by Monsanto-friendly Congressmen like Kingston and Lucas and their buddies, the USDA - already extremely favorable to biotech - will lose the ability to do much more than rubberstamp GMO industry requests. More importantly, the courts will not be able to require more thorough environmental review, further opening the door to the haphazard introduction of new GE crops into our food supply, our farms, and our environment.

In response to this, the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA), an organization which promotes alternatives to pesticides that are safe for workers and the environment, is asking concerned citizens to email their representatives and urge them to stand up to "Big 6" pressure and reject the biotech riders in the farm bill.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog "La Vida Locavore" and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of "Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It". She is a PRWatch guest contributor. your social media marketing partner


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+34 # Barbara K 2012-08-01 11:45
I hope Congress wakes up and stops helping this monstrous company, and those like it, from poisoning us. Guess we'll need to turn to Class Action lawsuits to stop being poisoned. Any attorneys who want to take it on?
+12 # patriot9878 2012-08-01 14:06
They can tie it up in court so long it would be forever. The class action lawsuits over cigarettes and asbestos made lawyers rich.
+7 # KittatinyHawk 2012-08-01 20:09
I would rather tie up the bill than have it go thru
+36 # jayjay 2012-08-01 11:55
Monsteranto seems to have the Congress all wrapped up in its claws. How come the Europeans can regulate and ban GMOs and we can't even get them labeled? Coupled with the fact that 75% of our imported produce is not inspected, eating healthily is a great challenge on the good old USA.
+8 # patriot9878 2012-08-01 14:05
You better grow a garden and raise chickens for eggs and meat. I feel sorry for city slickers. They have to eat processed junk.
+15 # SoCalStar 2012-08-01 16:21
If you feed the chickens commercial feed, which is GM corn and soy, then you are not much better off. Magill Ranch out Oregon makes Cascade Grower Poultry Feed, Organic - Corn & Soy Free. And if you use manure products from animals fed GM feed, you are still getting the altered genes. They are very hard to avoid, but then, that is the objective of the bio-engineering industry.
+6 # KittatinyHawk 2012-08-01 20:30
Amen People run out about everything but know absolutely nothing about the chains.

Thanks for the tip I will contact. I contacted Purina as they said they had holistic food for pets...when I asked if they used GE they said yes...I said not Natural food. Animals cancers are way up, as are other allergies. But who cares we will buy another one society goes on.

I have friends with three year old hens not I do believe the feed is greed.
+7 # KittatinyHawk 2012-08-01 20:27
No City Slickers can grow vegetables. I come from Brooklyn NY and some of the finest tomatoes and herbs came from Brooklyn not upstate or that swamp LI.

We grew in yards no bigger than postage stamps, on roofs, now people actually have taken incentives city vacant plots to grow food. Imagine. City Folk growing Organic Seeds will not have the exposure to the GE Crops of Rural areas.
You can grow plants in hanging baskets, in shoe bags. Europe on winding alleys, streets there are contraptions for growing at Attics, Windows to catch the Sun....No excuses not to grow, if you have no green thumb....get together with others who do. One does the seed buying, another compost, another gardens, .... then at the end of Season you can all can, freeze together..

Fruit trees...there are fruit trees esp apples that do not need spread out room. They grow tall. Another thing NY, Staten Island, Bronx was famous for...huckleber ries, blackberries. If they grew naturally in Parks, along Parkways, you can manage container fruits.
No need for dependency on Chemical Freak Farms. If animal farmers were smart they would adopt their Goats, Cows, Sheep. For a minimal amount a year, perhaps some work at farm, You could have fresh milk, take some home make your own cheese, yogurt (not all that hard, You can start making at beginning of Game and finish at the end. Amazing.) Meat...helps farmer with costs, you eat fresh
+6 # KittatinyHawk 2012-08-01 20:14
I would gladly buy European from Countries I know have Conscious, even South American. Canada if Organic or sustainable. However it is the importing ships of food that are the problem if you actually keep up on that.

They was the the organic and non with the same chemical washes.

If you eat at restaurants you are eating fish that is not what you are paying for..on Media. And how do you know what they are buying and from whom?

I am hoping that the future shows these Criminals what disease is like. Their Children will be exposed, Their grandchildren also. Yours do not have to be. It is time to get involved in growing your own, keeping Seedsman who trade organically in business.

As I always say you are in charge so get off your computers and take charge of your lives for a change.
0 # sgmp 2012-08-02 09:00
Quoting jayjay:
Monsteranto seems to have the Congress all wrapped up in its claws. How come the Europeans can regulate and ban GMOs and we can't even get them labeled? Coupled with the fact that 75% of our imported produce is not inspected, eating healthily is a great challenge on the good old USA.

Great question... how come Europeans have health care for everyone and we can't even come close? BUT they have problems, too, with unemployment, national debt, etc. Could it be the "global economy"? The rich are getting richer all over the world.
+35 # tedrey 2012-08-01 12:02
Monsanto and Dow should be responsible for keeping their unwanted seeds off non-participati ng farmers' property. If not the corporaion should be sued in each case for trespass and subsequent damages.
+4 # patriot9878 2012-08-01 14:04
If almost all seeds farmers are using are hybrids I got news it won't be long before there won't be any heirloom seeds left. If people can't see this for what it is I mean Monsanto is selling hybrid seeds and the excuse so they can put horrendous amounts of herbicide on fierlds.
It used to be the small farmers would pull their weeds. I bet you could pull the weeds and then spray concentrated salt water in the area and get rid of the weeds.
+24 # barkingcarpet 2012-08-01 12:35
Monsanto IS the "AntiChrist" and the devil incarnate. This genie needs to be put in a bottle on the back of the shelf, permanently. All future life is altered through this tech, and we know NOT what we do, while entertaining Pandora, and all for $ profits.
+7 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-08-01 15:05
+24 # julileegal 2012-08-01 13:19
I'm sick of Congress taking bribes from big corporations. Something should be done to prevent this from happening, then perhaps we could
Have some laws the people want and get rid of the shi_ these greedy
Congress people vote on. Monsanto, big Pharma, big oil, not to mention A- holes like the Koch bros have been bribing congress for so many years that the voters take it for granted and accept that it's okay when it should be illegal, just as it is if you or I offer a police officer a bribe to get out of a ticket.
+4 # patriot9878 2012-08-01 14:01
We got to resort to quotes. The Liberty tree must be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
+2 # sgmp 2012-08-02 09:06
Quoting julileegal:
I'm sick of Congress taking bribes from big corporations. Something should be done to prevent this from happening, then perhaps we could
Have some laws the people want and get rid of the shi_ these greedy
Congress people vote on. Monsanto, big Pharma, big oil, not to mention A- holes like the Koch bros have been bribing congress for so many years that the voters take it for granted and accept that it's okay when it should be illegal, just as it is if you or I offer a police officer a bribe to get out of a ticket.

Common Cause, Public Citizen, Move to Amend are all working on that issue (among other causes for the first 2 mentioned) I am pretty sure most RSN readers support them.
+4 # patriot9878 2012-08-01 14:00
Whatever we do even though these companies we can not advise violence in any way. We must inform each other what they are going to do to us, but not advocating violnce of any kind. Of course, it's illegal to boycott Israel companmies. So how hard would it be to outlaw calling for the boycott of a company? One thing for sure the sheeple have to stick together and all we can do is just quit buying product from certain companies. If we organized and were actually finding success in putting pressure on a company they would arrest the organizers.

If the citizens vote for something a court can strike it down as unconstitutiona l. Citizens are supposed to pay taxes and vote so they think they actually have control. They thought we might elect a third part candidate, so they installed diebold voting machines in key states. The people of this country they only thing they have over the Chinese is we can travel freely.
0 # Tigre1 2012-08-02 05:53
Remember: we now have drones. Gift of the Tea Party Packing guns to public political meetings two years ago. Another example of dumb and dumber.
+18 # chrisconnolly 2012-08-01 14:24
I do raise all my meat and veggies. But still there are issues with the feed I must buy. I can raise only a portion of the food my animals need. Monsanto and its ilk have bastardized all of our food even if we can choose to not directly consume their labeled products. We must vote the creeps out who are legislating these super corporations with god status. They are not protecting we the constituents by any measure.
+6 # KittatinyHawk 2012-08-01 20:42
I raised my own, right now coyotes are coming to visit since I obviously have the best chicks in town.
But I know that within ten years our animals will be dying...quicker and quicker.

Right now the bees, birds, wildlife are paying the price and no one does a thing but logs on to computer to bitch.. Too bad people do not give time to fight back.. that would take an effort.

I will continue to fight back. If you have chickens try some of those brassica plots for deer, try the buckwheat. I am growing Amaranth and now it is growing itself from reseed, Can control by pulling but it is free seed for all wildlife. Good Luck to you and yours.
+3 # logical1 2012-08-01 21:28
to Julie Legal,
Congress is not going to wake up! We can flood them with emails and letters and we might convince them on an issue or two.
It will take voting the scoundrels out of office to make a statement that will be understood. These Congressmen's elections are being paid for by big business.
Deregulation of big business has fraught HUGE losses that our government has (subsidized) picked up.
It is not SSI or medicare or healthcare that is eating up the economy. It is deregulation subsidizing the "rape" of our world by big business.
+2 # cordleycoit 2012-08-01 21:38
Where is Obama in this fight? Is he counting out his money? Is it enough to make him lose interest or is if like his banker buddies gifts,just right. Why are we given a choiceless choice in emperors we appoint?
+2 # Tigre1 2012-08-02 05:56
Thanks for the tip on amaranth. And I don't believe Monsatano's "patents" will stand one day longer than it takes for us to get off our buttz and SPRING to the streets...the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in US, that we are underlings...
+2 # Eliza D 2012-08-02 10:36
"Representative s" Frank Lucas and Jack Kingston are murderers, as far as I'm concerned, representing their own interest in money, and not the people who elected them. This food situation is at a serious impasse. Come on folks-get your friends to vote em out of office. It is inexcusable that our President is allowing this malfeasance. Look at third party candidates for Prez in November,like Rocky Anderson or Jill Stein. They have little money for advertising. I cannot continue to support this destruction of our planet by voting for Obama. I'm writing to my own senators, but I hold little hope that there will be any action as a result.
+1 # Kathymoi 2012-08-02 15:49
I don't think we can call their coup either quiet or bloodless. All the protests have been loud and clear. The press has been silent on the protests, but the protests have not been quiet. And the death toll and the sick and injured from Monsanto's crops and policies is staggering and mounting. No, not a quiet coup.
+1 # RnR 2012-08-04 09:32
When will Monsantos' hand in the "disappearance" of environmental activists be exposed? Let's try not to be too naive and not entertain the very real probability that they're funneling money into anti environmental movements, silent or otherwise. I include Congress in that classification.

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