'Monsanto' Rider Ridiculed by Both Sides, But Is it as Bad as it Looks?

Outpouring over “Montanto Protection Act” unusual for one provision.

FE_DA130403monsanto.jpg

A sign at the St. Louis headquarters of Monsanto Co., the world's biggest seed maker. The provision in section 735 provides farmers with assurance that a legally planted, USDA approved biotech crop can be planted, harvested and sold.

By + More

"It means that if someone is powerful enough, adept enough or stealthy enough to slip a special interest rider into one of these bills, they get a free ride out of it," DeFazio says. "It is a horrible way to run government, but it does open the door to a select few who have enough clout or have made enough campaign contributions to get someone to do a special favor."

[READ: South Carolina Race Pits Sanford Against Colbert Busch]

DeFazio says he and other lawmakers, including Republicans, are working now to ensure if Congress acts on another long-term bill that special inclusions don't get tacked on.

Monsanto, however, argues that this provision was anything but last minute. They say it was a part of a former House agriculture appropriations bill and that the Senate simply took the language from that bill for the CR.

"Interesting narrative, yes. The only problem is that it's untrue, invented by various groups for purposes we can only guess at," Monsanto wrote on its blog where it also linked to Entine's piece. "In this case the 'Farmer Assurance Act,'a section dubbed the "Monsanto Protection Act," has been around at least as long as last summer."

That has not kept phones from ringing off the hook in congressional offices across Capitol Hill.

So loudly that Appropriations Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who oversaw the continuing resolution process, issued a statement acknowledging she thought the provision was less than ideal.

 

"Senator Mikulski understands the anger over the provision. She didn't put the language in the bill and doesn't support it either," Mikulski's statement reads. "As chairwoman of the appropriations committee, Senator Mikulski's first responsibility was to prevent a government shutdown. That means she had to compromise on many of her own priorities to get a bill through the Senate that the House would pass."

[PHOTOS: Exxon Oil Spill Cleanup Underway in Arkansas]

Organic farmer Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., had attempted to introduce an amendment to rid the provision from the Senate bill, but was not offered a vote. Tester had a two-fold concern. He worried the provision put Americans at risk, but also had concerns violated the separation of powers.

"Supporters are calling it the 'farmer assurance' provision, but all it really assures is a lack of corporate liability," Tester said in a floor speech. "Even if a court tells you that you failed to follow the right process and tells you to start over, you must disregard the court's ruling and allow the crops to be planted anyway. Not only does this ignore the Constitution's idea of separation of powers, but it also lets genetically-modified crops take hold across the country—even when a judge finds it violates the law."

More News:

  • Tea Party Libertarians and Small Organic Farmers Make Strange Political Bedfellows
  • Opinion: Obama and Congress Must Protect Family Farmers
  • Report: USDA Should Regulate In-School Snacks