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Simon writes: "Without any hearings on the matter, the Senate included language that would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to essentially ignore any court ruling that would otherwise halt the planting of new genetically-engineered crops."

The Monsanto Protection Act is being criticized for its lack of government checks and balances. (illustration: Occupy Monsanto)
The Monsanto Protection Act is being criticized for its lack of government checks and balances. (illustration: Occupy Monsanto)

Monsanto Teams Up With Congress to Shred the Constitution

By Michele Simon, Reader Supported News

29 March 13


ur founding fathers, white-maleness aside, did get a few things right. One of them was the concept of "separation of powers," to ensure a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. But a dangerous provision snuck into the budget bill passed last week in Congress upends that system. Without any hearings on the matter, the Senate included language that would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to essentially ignore any court ruling that would otherwise halt the planting of new genetically-engineered crops. Here is how Capital Press explains it:

The rider pertains to transgenic crops that have been deregulated by the USDA but then had that approval overturned by a judge -- a scenario that has occurred with genetically engineered alfalfa and sugar beets.

In such a situation, the agency "shall" immediately issue permits or a partial deregulation order that would temporarily allow farmers to continue growing and selling the crop until USDA is done re-evaluating its environmental effects, according to the rider. Why is this such a big deal? The court system is often our last hope, with Congress, the White House, and regulatory agencies deep inside industry's pocket. Several legal challenges have resulted in court decisions overturning USDA's approval of new GMO crops, for example, sugar beets.

Why is this such a big deal? The court system is often our last hope, with Congress, the White House, and regulatory agencies deep inside industry's pocket. Several legal challenges have resulted in court decisions overturning USDA's approval of new GMO crops, for example, sugar beets.

So the biotech industry, unable to make its case to a judge, figured why not just rewrite the Constitution instead, with the help of a Democratic Senate led by Senator Barbara Mikulski, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Despite Montana Senator Jon Tester's best attempts to stop the so-called biotech rider, the measure was pushed through. (Industry had tried to get a similar measure passed more than once last year.) Tester minced no words, in a recent article in POLITICO about this and other industry power grabs such as weakening small farmer protections:

These provisions are giveaways, pure and simple, and will be a boon worth millions of dollars to a handful of the biggest corporations in this country. They deserve no place in this bill. We simply have got to do better on both policy and process.

If President Obama signs the budget deal with this provision, it could have long-lasting and serious consequences. This list of pending petitions to USDA to approve genetically-engineered crops includes new versions of corn, soybean, canola, and cotton. Once these crops get planted, it will be too late to do much about it. That's why groups such as the Center for Food Safety file lawsuits when USDA turns a blind eye to the potentially harmful environmental consequences of these unique crops. 

Here is how Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, described the situation:

In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental, and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto. This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Senator Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.

The biotech industry, with the help of Congress, is attempting an end-run of the judicial system. Since judges can't get be bought off, just go to your friends in Congress instead.

Unfortunately, most of the mainstream media have not picked up on this unprecedented Big Biotech power grab, and in the case of NPR, has even spread misinformation about the rider's effects:

But a closer look at the language of the provision suggests it may not be granting the USDA any powers it doesn't already have.

"It's not clear that this provision radically changes the powers USDA has under the law," Greg Jaffe, director of the Biotechnology Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, tells The Salt.

This interpretation was echoed, unsurprisingly, by the biotech industry, in Capital Express:

"It doesn't require the USDA to do anything it wouldn't otherwise have the authority to do," said Karen Batra, communications director for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. "The language is there to protect farmers who have already made planting decisions."

But as Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety explains, the new language makes what is currently discretionary or optional on USDA's part, mandatory, a huge difference:

The word "shall" forces the USDA to continue allowing biotech crop cultivation even if its commercialization was overturned. They've taken away the discretion of the secretary of agriculture. Its real not-so-hidden purpose is to take away the ability to effectively vacate the approval of a crop that's been approved illegally.

If there is any good news, it's that the continuing resolution the provision hitched a ride on is only valid for six months. But industry seems confident it can make the workaround permanent. Likely what will follow is a protracted court battle over the policy's constitutionality; remember that whole separation of powers thing? Still, any such legal challenge will likely take years to be resolved. Even USDA thinks the provision is unconstititional. Secretary Vilsack's office told POLITICO that he has asked the Office of General Council to review the language, "as it appears to pre-empt judicial review of a deregulatory action which may make the provision unenforceable."

Meanwhile, the grassroots movement continues to grow to demand labeling of foods containing genetically-engineered ingredients. While important, we cannot let labeling distract us from pro-biotech policies at the other end of production. The fewer GMO crops that are allowed to be planted in the first place, the fewer end-products containing GMOs.

But it's not too late. You can still demand that President Obama refuse to sign the budget bill into law unless the biotech rider (aka Monsanto Protection Act) is removed. Food Democracy Now! has already gathered more than 175,000 signatures demanding Obama do the right thing. From that organization's action alert:

By sneaking Section 735 into a federal appropriations bills, Monsanto has successfully planted a dangerous provision in U.S. law that strips judges of their constitutional mandate to protect American's health and the environment while opening up the floodgates for the planting of new, untested genetically engineered crops.

Even if their new GMO crops are ultimately proven to be harmful to human health or the environment, Section 735 allows them to be planted the minute the USDA approves them!

Even more alarming, currently 13 new crops are awaiting approval at the USDA and AquaBounty's GMO salmon is on the verge of being approved by the FDA. This new provision opens the door wide open for these approvals.

If the biotech industry can so easily override our court system, which is our last resort in stopping these dangerous crops from being planted, we will have no place left to turn. And Monsanto will have completed its hostile takeover of the U.S. government.

Take action now by calling and emailing the White House here. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

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Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+43 # Barbara K 2013-03-29 11:01
President Obama: We are counting on you to be the grown-up in the room and to work for us, the citizens of this country. Please do not sign this Bill as long as Monsanto is in it. This is a Budget Bill, and Monsanto has no place in the budget. Stop them from taking over our lives. Their stuff makes us sick. We are counting on you to protect us against all odds. Don't let their threats break you down, we need you and we need you now.

+10 # Joe Bob 2013-03-29 12:35
Wooo you're asking a lot, Obama give the corp's a toss. Ha ha ha he can't even give the republicans a tough negotiation.
Congress, what a joke. Sen. Reid can't even kill the filibuster when he had the chance. Government for the clowns by the clowns. How many cabinet positions has Obama still not filled ? Joke.
+13 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-03-29 21:12
I was raised with the Republican slogan which that party endlessly tried to make a working part of our brain: "America, love it or leave it." Once I grew up, became an adult, I left that Party which my parents bestowed on me. Since the Republicans gave us only two options and expected us to believe there were only two options, that party expected blind obedience to those two options. Wayne Dyer (the pop. psychologist) once said "blind obedience to an ideas is the greatest evil." The Progressives have the right idea. They believe that evidence trumps belief. The evidence which caused me to leave the Republican Party, as I saw it, "you do not have to love America. You do not have to leave America if you do not love America." The Progressives, as long as they fight long and hard and by this definition "hard" I mean intelligently, this country will stand because they, the Progressives believe in the third option, "improving the country." I'm registered an an Independent. I wish before my time expires on this planet that the Independent Party becomes so much more powerful and is mainstream Progressive. I do believe that to join a party such as the Democratic or Republican Party is nothing more than giving up title to your brain. Challenges can be met with force by Democrats and Independents that common people like Harry Reid, George Bush, Dick Cheney, etc. throw at us. Harry Reid does not know he is dead and someone should be kind enough to tell Harry Reid he is dead.
+6 # muffy7 2013-03-30 08:05
Sadly he has already signed this "killer" bill, SHAME ON HIM!
0 # Surflar 2013-03-30 19:18
So the senate and congress are bought off and the probably own the president too. This is lunacy what will we be able to eat that won't hurt us?
0 # davehaze 2013-03-31 08:25
Done deal. Signed, sealed, delivered. What's next?, Obama asks.

The Keystone pipeline, Mr. President.

Again, done deal, what's after that?

Well, Mr. President, your constituents have been against against hydraulic fracturing for natural gas by an overwhelming margin and...

Fracking protesters! Don't they know this is a bipartisan issue and if anything I am a bipartisan president. All I have to do is give a speech on how much I love clean air and water and the health of all Americans. Don't you worry everyone will fall into line. What's for lunch? Or more to the point, what's fresh out of Michelle's organic garden?
+25 # bobaka 2013-03-29 11:43
There is a vast ignorance engulfing educated humans as to the relationship between the U.S. form of government and the real government of the U.S. The original design kept power out of the commoners hands and minds. From the beginning and up to this very moment, the U.S. system is for and by the designers of modern slavery and its democratic delusions. So the article is civics class mindfuck thought, because it suggests that somewhere, somehow, reason and sanity must be reestablished so that the dreams of idealism will not seem such a nightmare.I am an organic farmer. Chemistry is modern capitalism's two edged sword: cheapens the costs of production, and induces myriads of diseases. Eliminate health care and the slaves die early without knowing the causes of their deaths.
+5 # Depressionborn 2013-03-29 12:52
Re: babaka: The original design...

Not too long ago we were all organic. (I was there!) It was the original design of government: of and for the people, a republic, not "a democracy".

I sure agree that about it all there is a vast ignorance. It wasn't always so.

And please, the problem with chemists is that their subject is too difficult for them.
0 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-03-29 22:38
I'm working like hell, trying to understand your post. "It was the original design of government :OF AND FOR THE PEOPLE, A REPUBLIC, NOT A "DEMOCRACY."

I do not know of a Republic that is "of and for the people, except in pseudo "Fairy dust" terms. A Republic, by its very nature is not run by the people, much less for the people. A Republic is designed to be run by very powerful business interests and usually undemocratic politicians who work to undermine Democracy. This country was evolving toward a Democracy and probably still is except that the "Citizen's United" decision set this country back and is slowing down, greatly blocking the evolutionary progress toward a more Democratic form of government.
+4 # Depressionborn 2013-03-29 11:43
Obviously Senator Mikulski must have had a reason. I wonder what it was?
+26 # RnR 2013-03-29 11:55
A bank deposit big enough to boggle the mind of any american citizen. Plus guarantee of a job (probably for her and her extended family) for life :)

That's a low ball estimate.
+16 # tbcrawford 2013-03-29 12:01
+20 # WallStWallFlowerGirl 2013-03-29 11:43
I want to call and definitely write, but didn't Obama already sign the bill?

Either way, if the Monsanto Protection Act can legally find its way into homes across America, then the argument against legalizing marijuana has become moot. Far less harmful when grown on farms without "additives," it's more organic than any product stocked on the shelves at Trader Joe's; if Monsanto can bypass the bureaucratic FDA- shouldn't this be a win for pot?

Not to take away from the blatant malfeasance of public servants (and I use that term loosely), but maybe one way to squash the abuse of power is to threaten them with a nation of stoners. Let's put a rider in for the Marijuana Protection Act!
+14 # jon 2013-03-29 12:09
"Let's put a rider in for the Marijuana Protection Act!"

Right On !!

(as they used to say back in the good old days)
+6 # RnR 2013-03-29 12:44
You're my kinda guy!
0 # da gaf 2013-03-31 11:01
Quoting jon:
"Let's put a rider in for the Marijuana Protection Act!"

Right On !!

(as they used to say back in the good old days)

+7 # LetJusticeRoll 2013-03-29 13:53
Quoting WallStWallFlowerGirl:
I want to call and definitely write, but didn't Obama already sign the bill?

Yes, Obama did sign it - and did so before this article was written! I heard coverage on NPR and DN! Also, according to an article in The Dirt, written by Julie Simon & published Thursday, March 28: "After approval of the budget bill in Congress last week, opponents of genetically modified food garnered their forces, gathered 250,000 signatures, and protested outside the White House. President Obama signed the budget bill into law anyway on Tuesday."
0 # muffy7 2013-03-30 08:10
WE ALL NEED to call the Pres and complain. I don't know what has happened to him, but I am very upset at his recent actions.
+3 # noitall 2013-03-30 13:16
Quoting muffy7:
WE ALL NEED to call the Pres and complain. I don't know what has happened to him, but I am very upset at his recent actions.

It must be clear by now that Obama isn't phased by the "wishes" of the People. He was and is a part of the plan, the only reason a black man became president, a part of the ruse. The amazing thing is that a man with a family would go along with allowing himself to be used as the step-and-fetch- it stereotype. We're always taken out by one of our own. You don't think there was a consensus to sell Manhattan Island for a string of beads do you?!
+6 # DPM 2013-03-29 18:47
Watch out! Monsanto will patent the marijuana plant genes and you'll be forced to pay them!
+11 # Citizen Mike 2013-03-29 12:53
This is obviously unconstitutiona l and should be tested in the courts. An executive branch agency cannot over-rule or disregard a court order.
+13 # James Marcus 2013-03-29 13:18
Congress, and the President, (and, now, through Several Presidents, a Majority of The Court!) are ALL PURCHASED,
'fair and square'.
To stop this 'Take-Over', the Money Flow, 'Wholesale Purchasing', must stop.
All must stand for re-election. PUBLICLY FUNDED ELECTIONS and Campaigns. NO CONTRIBUTIONS, EVER.
add in Term Limits. This is a Service Job, not an Entitlement!
+4 # Active Voice 2013-03-29 17:56
I agree with you wholeheartedly about the need for publicly funded elections. Our elected representatives should be beholden only to the people. You'd see a lot more legislation that was purely in the public interest if elected depended only on the public for their campaign funds.

We also need to figure out a way for candidates to reach people without having to spend obscene amounts of money on media. We own the airwaves, don't we? Why couldn't some of them be devoted to public debate and campaign issues?

I disagree with you, however, about term limits: If an elected official is doing a good job, he or she should be able to stay in that job for as long as their constituents want. If an elected official is doing a bad job, vote that person out. The best way to ensure that politicians don't continue in office longer than they provide good service is... elections!
+1 # Surflar 2013-03-30 19:23
So corporations are people we'll never win another election obviously.
+8 # geraldom 2013-03-29 14:19
I'm sorry folks, but there was enough noise on the internet and enough people writing in and calling in to their representatives that in no way could any of our representatives not have known that this heinous amendment was added into the Bill by Monsanto to give them unconstitutiona l powers over our government and our courts, and yet our illustrious congressional representatives voted to pass this Bill. So, I would ask that none of you be so forgiving of your representatives and assume that they had no knowledge of the existence of this amendment.

Unfortunately, I fear that Obama will sign this Bill into law as he has signed so many other heinous Bills into law. And, once he signs this Bill, that will be it, unless of course some brave souls attempt to take this issue to the federal court system based on its obvious unconstitutiona lity. But, then you have to realize that, under the Bush administration, our courts, with the help and support and blessings by the Senate Democrats, have all but been completely tainted to now reflect the interests of corporate America, not the average American. The federal court system, and most especially SCOTUS, no longer respect or uphold the tenets of our Constitution.
+4 # RnR 2013-03-30 05:25
And under Bush, the restrictions on exposing people to chemicals without their knowledge and consent was removed. I think that proves they *know* Monsanto's garbage is poisonous. And that's the kindest thing I can say about Monsanto.
+2 # 2013-03-29 15:21
No, seriously, everyone PLEASE READ THIS:
+2 # pegasus4508 2013-03-29 17:10
after reading all THAT, I am still confused. The President signed it and basically Snopes says it is TRUE.
+14 # angelfish 2013-03-29 16:02
Too late, Folks. He SIGNED it! We are DONE in by the man who was supposed to be watching our backs, but instead, stabbed us in it! Stealthily, without any fanfare he has SIGNED this piece of excrement and we are left to eat it whether we like it or not! Shame on you, Mr. President! I thought you actually GAVE a damn. Silly me!
+3 # DPM 2013-03-29 18:50
Things won't be changed by voting. Something else has to be done.
+3 # RnR 2013-03-30 07:12
I think liberals are missing an opportunity just *know* GAWD doesn't want this kind of genetic manipulation going on...turn the religious right fundamentalists against Monsanto and the rest will be history. I think worrying about the ethics of this type of tactic is totally stupid.
+3 # pbbrodie 2013-03-31 06:59
What has liberal got to do with this? EVERYONE, regardless of their political leanings, should be extremely concerned about this. Monsanto and their ilk are slowly destroying our food supply and what they are doing is irreversible. If this continues unabated, we will soon be eating Solyent Green!
+4 # RnR 2013-03-30 07:02
I'm going to do some research. I suspect Monsanto management, ceo etc., would probably be traceable back to the Nazi medical personnel, you know, those happy little guys doing medical experiments at the various vacation camps they ran. We gave a lot of them cover.
+3 # Gnome de Pluehm 2013-03-30 11:55
Temporary?! Once this stuff is released the wind will assure that it travels to other fields and these genes will gradually spread to all crops. We will not be able to put the genie back in the bottle!
0 # michelet3 2013-03-30 12:11
this act is outrageous. I urge congress, president Obama, and the courts to rescind it.

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