Really, Monsanto (Again)?
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the intersection of business interests and political interests around the world. As an entrepreneurial organization, we take a business approach to what we care about, and believe in the rights and responsibilities associated with influencing public policy. But we also believe in the importance of transparency, clear rules of the game, and common sense decency. We do not believe in making a buck at any cost. We do not believe companies who cut corners and sacrifice others’ wellbeing for the sake of making a buck are serving society’s interests.
So, in a series of shout outs to investigative journalists whose critical work points us to the ugly back alley activities of businesses and open air atrocities of little countries as well as otherwise commendable huge countries, we now return to one company for the second time:
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.
While no senators are copping to having inserted the language into the government funding bill, one senator is very publicly trying to stop it: Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), the only working farmer in the Senate — and an organic one to boot. He was instrumental in finding ways to make the recent food safety reform law work for small and organic farmers and he’s one of the few senators west of the Mississippi who has a truly reformist attitude toward agriculture issues.