Remember that one time? In Congress? When an anonymous group of House Republicans tried and failed to sneak a rider into the farm bill that would have exempted agribusiness from liability for biotech crops and all but eliminated the government’s power to regulate them? Good times.
Well, the implosion of the farm bill did nothing to stop Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, et al’s quest to insulate themselves from lawsuits. Maybe it has something to do with the rise of superweeds and superbugs resistant to their products and the fact that commodity farmers are just maybe starting to take a hard look at the costs versus the benefits of the current and coming crop of genetically modified seeds. Or perhaps it’s simply a desire to complete their dominance of U.S. agriculture.
Whatever the reason, the so-called “Monsanto rider” is back, this time thanks to an anonymous senator, or group of senators, who have attached it to the must-pass “Continuing Resolution” that will keep the government operating as of March 27. Let me just say that when it comes to Congress -- which is chockablock with men and women desperate for media attention -- whenever you hear the word “anonymous” attached to anything, you know you there’s something sketchy going on.
Tom Philpott at Mother Jones did the yeoman's service of digging out the exact language from the bill. Right after the section where Congress defunds the mohair subsidy program (you do know we have a mohair subsidy program, don’t you?), the draft legislation states that in the event that a court declares a genetically modified seed illegal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture can override the judge and allow farmers to keep planting, harvesting, and distributing it. Funny enough, this exact scenario occurred with Monsanto’s GMO sugar beets a couple years ago when a federal judge found that the USDA had violated the law in approving them. The department defied the court order and told farmers to keep planting anyway.