Biotech Firms Slip in Amendment Allowing USDA to Overrule Courts on Genetically Engineered Crops

Friday, March 22, 2013

Food safety advocates and environmentalists have cried foul over Congress adopting a little-known provision that gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the power to overrule the courts in cases involving genetically engineered (GE) crops.


While lawmakers worked on legislation to keep the federal government from running out of money, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, allowed a “biotech rider” to slip into the funding plan, known as a continuing resolution, presumably at the behest of biotechnology companies.


That rider (referred to by some opponents as the “Monsanto Protection Act”) authorizes the USDA to nullify any federal court decision that bans the use of GE crops.


The Center for Food Safety, a consumer organization, said on its website that the rider could undermine the courts’ “ability to safeguard farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops.”


“Moreover, the rider represents an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review of agency actions and is a major violation of the separation of powers, an essential element of U.S. constitutional governance and law,” the group added.


Critics also noted that the provision was approved without any vetting in the agriculture or judiciary committees.


The only good news for opponents of the rider is that it can only be in effect for the life of the continuing resolution, which is about six months.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Center for Food Safety Denounces Dangerous “Biotech” Earmark in Senate-passed Spending Bill (Center for Food Safety)

Secretive US Amendment Would Weaken Biotech Oversight (by Carey L. Biron, Inter Press Service)

World’s Largest Biotechnology Company Uses Team of 74 Lobbyists to Win Fiscal Cliff Gift (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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