how to protect your private interests, the biotech way

Modern Farmer has a timeline of the Monsanto Protection Act‘s creation and passage into law, and the uproar that resulted from the process. I think the story is worth a moment or two.

The Monsanto Protection Act is not a bill that became law through the channels we generally recall from Schoolhouse Rock. It’s really a rider attached to a larger package, Section 735 of the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013.” But that’s clumsy. Section 735 has come to be known as the Monsanto Protection Act; a name targeting the literal definition of the provision, which was discovered in the appropriations bill just before passage and for which nobody claimed ownership because no one wanted the credit/blame. (Spoiler, it was Sen. Roy Blunt).

Controversy surrounds the rider because it “invalidates any court ruling that prevents GMO crops from being planted or sold into the food supply.” Essentially, biotech companies who produce GMO products are protected from lawsuits seeking to limit or restrict GMO seeds or crops in any way. GMO is controversial, and this law, temporarily at least, determines the outcome of that controversy.

Worth noting, though, is the timeline that Modern Farmer provides: it highlights just how rapidly such moves occur. The rider failed to pass last year, and was then discovered on March 13 of this year, buried deep in a nearly 600 page appropriations bill. On, March 26, President Obama signed the whole deal into law.

Of course, outrage ensued; activists engaged and protests rose up. Sen. John Tester gave a wonderful speech criticizing corporate giveaways. Even the Tea-Party protested the closed-door dealings between Monsanto and Congress. But to no avail. The embarrassment (which it is, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski actually apologized for it) remains on the books until it expires late this year.

So. If you are like me, and you care about good governance, this is dispiriting. And if you don’t care about good governance, well, you should. At the center of the controversy surrounding the Monsanto Protection Act is not the GMO fight (a fight I’m not particularly engaged in), but the fact that companies like Monsanto are working with elected US representatives to insert hidden provisions anonymously into appropriations bills. Back-room politics of the first order, only operating for the purpose of protecting private (very wealthy) corporate interests. That this ‘happens all the time’ (which it does) does not ease the blow. It only makes actions like these much harder to swallow.

Our government has granted Monsanto, who had Q2 profits of $5+ Billion, immunity from challenges in court for 2013.  Yesterday I said that the Congress is like a bunch of children who can’t get anything done.  Don’t tell that to Monsanto.

More: about the Monsanto Protection Act

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5 responses to “how to protect your private interests, the biotech way

  1. I’m with you on all of this. But why are you surprised that “even the Tea Party” objected to this kind of thing? At least to my ear, lamentations of crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and regulatory capture have come almost exclusively from the Tea Party over the past few years (with some credit given to Occupy Wall Street).

    • I am not surprised at the Tea Party’s opposition to this kind of nonsense, though my use of “even” there would betray that sentiment. It was more to acknowledge the comprehensive nature of the opposition.

      I have to point out though, sir, it’s a bit silly to claim that lamentations over crony capitalism and corporate welfare have been almost exclusively from the Tea Party. They have come from the Tea Party, for sure, but there has always been a strong voice in the progressive movement crying foul of this nonsense.

      • I agree. The more I think about things, the more I see commonalities between true conservatives and true progessives. Can we maybe meet in the middle under the tent of distributism?

        • yes. common ground. let’s grab a beer sometime and you can make the case for distributism…

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