Organic farmers and food advocates were up in arms as the news trickled down to the public about a provision added to a major Congressional spending bill back in March, 2013. Largely criticized for the lack of awareness and oversight to which allowed this provision to be added, Section 735 of the HR 933 continuing resolution (appropriately nicknamed the “MONSANTO PROTECTION ACT”), essentially gave absolute impunity to agro-chemical corporations. The clause stipulated that companies such as the GMO seed giant Monsanto would be free to continue selling/distributing its seeds and fertilizers, even if the mega-giant was actively engaged in a lawsuit in which its product was found to be harmful. If this doesn’t alarm you, it should. Designed to be as broad and vague as possible, it gave Monsanto legal authority that superseded the highest of levels of the U.S. judicial system, namely the SCOTUS (a.k.a. the Supreme Court of The United States). Maybe you’ve heard of it?
It wasn’t surprising to discover that the provision was added by an individual with deep ties to Monsanto. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri carefully crafted the language along with Monsanto’s A-team of lawyers. For his efforts, Senator Blunt was handsomely rewarded to the tune of many thousands of $. This wasn’t a one off exchange by any stretch of the imagination. Monsanto has footed the bill for a number of Blunt’s political campaigns. If you look up the phrase “conflict of interest” in an encyclopedia, you’d see the mug of a man with ulterior motives. Don’t believe me? You can decide for yourself:
Fortunately, the Monsanto Protection Act had a shelf life (unlike many of their GMO products) of six months.
FAST FORWARD……………………. To September 27th, 2013.
The time had come to bring the Farmer Assurance Provision (the official title given to the clause) back to the table for open debate. “Business as usual” was slated as the heavy favorite to walk off of Capitol Hill with a win that day. Little did they know that the people of the food democracy movement had made their voices heard. U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski (Maryland) and Jeff Merkley (Oregon) were successful in forcing the language to be removed from the bill.
To fully understand the issue, consider an important question; why was this provision labeled the “Farmer Assurance Provision?” From the perspective of Monsanto (the secret author of the clause), this assurance was designed to guarantee that farmers wouldn’t be stifled in the event of a full scale investigation or lawsuit. Court cases can be messy and often take months, if not years, to come to a resolution. So, in this hypothetical instance, any farmer that purchases Monsanto’s seeds would not be able to sell their crops… legally that is. This could theoretically be an epidemic in the making. These farmers are contractually obligated to buy Monsanto’s products, but wouldn’t be able to reap any benefits from their yield. There could be a complete society wide upheaval, as farmers face dire straits while urban dwellers find super-markets out of stock or lacking in selection.
It may look like a grim picture. However, the situation does beckon another crucial question of ethics; if Monsanto’s crops were found to be harmful, would it be such a bad idea to keep their product away from the public? Would you eat poison if you knew it was the only thing around? Okay, okay, that’s a little extreme. After all, there are plenty of organic farmers around that utilize sustainable practices to produce healthy and nutrient rich food. Still, it’s very suspicious that this provision even exists to begin with. Why would anyone trust a company if their reputation is marred by federal investigations and Supreme Court lawsuits? Besides, our congressional representatives need to act in the best interest of the people, not of Monsanto – a corporation that would continue to make record profits even if they were under serious investigation. So, I for one applaud the senators that stood up and defeated this provision. It sends a clear message that we, as a society, need to find alternative methods to producing food that are both sustainable and healthy for consumption. Furthermore, it confirms that there are genuine folks in D.C. that aren’t completely bought and sold by large corporations.
Final conclusion; enjoy this victory. Celebrate with all of your organic, anti-agricorp friends. Savor the moment, but don’t forget that we as a community must remain vigilant. Monsanto is still one of the largest corporations in the world and influences a large chunk of the food supply. Their reach into the pockets of Congress goes deep. We haven’t heard the last of these kinds of shenanigans…