The more your read about it, the more objectionable it becomes:
Monsanto and the US farm biotech industry wield legendary power. A revolving door allows corporate chiefs to switch to top posts in the Foodand Drug Administration and other agencies; US embassies around the world push GM technology onto dissenting countries; government subsidies back corporate research; federal regulators do largely as the industry wants; the companies pay millions of dollars a year to lobby politicians; conservative thinktanks combat any political opposition; thecourts enforce corporate patents on seeds; and the consumer is denied labels or information.
But even people used to the closeness of the US administration and food giants like Monsanto have been shocked by the latest demonstration of the GM industry’s political muscle. Little-noticed in Europe or outside the US, President Barack Obama last week signed off what has become widely known as “the Monsanto Protection Act”, technically the Farmer Assurance Provision rider in HR 933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act 2013
The key phrases are a mouthful of legal mumbo jumbo but are widely thought to have been added to the bill by the Missouri republican senator Roy Blunt who is Monsanto’s chief recipient of political funds.
But at least it’s not going down without a fight:
According to an array of food and consumer groups, organic farmers, civil liberty and trade unions and others, this hijacks the constitution, sets a legal precedent and puts Monsanto and other biotech companies above the federal courts. It means, they say, that not even the US government can now stop the sale, planting, harvest or distribution of any GM seed, even if it is linked to illness or environmental problems.
The backlash has been furious. Senator Barbara Mikulski, chair of the powerful Senate appropriations committee which was ultimately responsible for the bill, has apologised. A Food Democracy Now petition has attracted 250,000 names and sections of the liberal press and blogosphere are outraged. “This provision is simply an industry ploy to continue to sell genetically engineered seeds even when a court of law has found they were approved by US department of agriculture illegally,”says one petition. “It is unnecessary and an unprecedented attack on US judicial review. Congress should not be meddling with the judicial review process based solely on the special interest of a handful of companies.”
Some day (hopefully), this sort of over-reach and the near-complete subjugation of Congress to corporate interests and money will outrage enough Americans that real change will be possible.