Sneak Attack on Farmers
Monsanto is using its money and influence to push Congress to attach a rider to the 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would effectively end judicial review of approvals of new genetically engineered crops.
If this rider (Sec. 733) isn’t removed, organic and non-GMO farmers will lose their access to the court system and they’ll have no recourse when the U.S. Department of Agriculture illegally approves new genetically engineered crops that threaten to contaminate their fields and seed supplies.
Monsanto’s sneak attack is a response to successful lawsuits brought by the Center for Food Safety on behalf of organic and non-GMO farmers and seed growers that have attempted to block planting of genetically engineered sugar beets and alfalfa while the USDA conducted a court-ordered review of the dangers of contamination.
A vote to remove Monsanto’s rider from the Agriculture Appropriations bill was expected this week, but now has been delayed until after Congress returns from their July 4th recess. Let’s use this time to spread the word and send tens of thousands of letters to Congress!
- Apparent unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. Judicial review is an essential element of U.S. law, providing a critical and impartial check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods. Maintaining the clear-cut boundary of a Constitutionally-guaranteed separation of powers is essential to our government. This provision will blur that line.
- Judicial review is a gateway, not a roadblock. Congress should be fully supportive of our nation’s independent judiciary. The ability of courts to review, evaluate and judge an issue that impacts public and environmental health is a strength, not a weakness, of our system. The loss of this fundamental safeguard could leave public health, the environment and livelihoods at risk.
- Removing the legal brakes that prevent fraud and abuse. In recent years, federal courts have ruled that several USDA GE crop approvals violated the law and required further study of their health and environmental impact. These judgments indicated that continued planting would cause harm to the environment and/or farmers and ordered interim planting restrictions pending further USDA analysis and consideration This outlandish provision would prevent a federal court from putting in place court-ordered restrictions, even if the approval were fraudulent or involved bribery.
- Unnecessary and duplicative. Every court to decide these issues has carefully weighed the interests of all affected farmers, as is already required by law. No farmer has ever had his or her crops destroyed as a result. USDA already has working mechanisms in place to allow partial approvals, and the Department has used them, making this provision completely unnecessary.
- USDA shut out as well. The rider would not merely allow, it would compel the Secretary of Agriculture to immediately grant any requests for permits to allow continued planting and commercialization of an unlawfully approved GE crop. With this provision in place, USDA may not be able to prevent costly contamination episodes like Starlink or Liberty Link rice, which have already cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The rider would also make a mockery of USDA’s legally mandated review, transforming it into a ‘rubber stamp’ approval process.
- Back-door amendment of statute. This rider, quietly tacked onto an appropriations bill, is in effect a substantial amendment to USDA’s governing statute for GE crops, the Plant Protection Act. If Congress feels the law needs to be changed, it should be done in a transparent manner by holding hearings, soliciting expert testimony and including full opportunity for public debate.