When Californians need more water, they take it from their neighbors. Image credit: Robert Goldstrom
"The Farmers Assurance Provision" is the title of a rider, Section 733, inserted into the House of Representatives 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. Somehow, as a farmer, I don't feel the least bit assured.
The only assurance it provides is that Monsanto and the rest of the agriculture biotech industry will have carte blanche to force the government to allow the planting of their biotech seeds.
In addition, the House Agriculture Committee's 2012 farm bill draft includes three riders -- Sections 1011, 10013 and 10014. These amendments would essentially destroy any oversight of new Genetically Engineered (GE) crops by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
If these riders had been in place during the review of GE alfalfa, Monsanto could have requested -- no they could have compelled -- the Secretary of Agriculture to allow continued planting of GE alfalfa even though a federal court had ruled commercialization was illegal pending completion of an environmental impact study.
Essentially, the riders would prevent the federal courts from restricting, in any way, the planting of a GE crop, regardless of environmental, health or economic concerns. USDA's mandated review process would be, like court-ordered restrictions, meaningless. A request to USDA to allow planting of a GE crop awaiting approval would have to be granted.
Wow, who's next to get in on a deal like this, the drug companies?
Not only will the riders eviscerate the power of USDA and the authority of the courts, but it will also permanently dismiss any input from other agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Fish and Wildlife Service or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Does Congress really believe it has the right to remove the court's power of Congressional oversight? Doesn't that violate the separation of powers guaranteed in the Constitution?
The trade group behind the riders, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), insists that the riders do not, in any way, reduce regulatory requirements for new GE crops. What? They only eliminate any oversight from the judicial branch -- that's sort of a big thing.
The approval process for new GE crops is not without its perceived delays. As limited as it may be, review takes time but getting new GE crops approved is a cakewalk.
StarLink corn and Liberty Link rice slipped through the approval process only to have major contamination and health issues after commercialization. Once a crop is in the USDA pipeline, approval is a near certainty.
BIO insists the riders are necessary to avoid delays in approval. Of course, delays cost them MONEY, which is obviously all they are concerned about. If they were concerned about environmental impacts, or food safety, wouldn't they request input from EPA and FDA?
So, the "Farmer Assurance " thing -- using farmers as their poster children -- is quite disingenuous. The biotech industry cares about farmers because farmers are their meal ticket.
Farmers are not stupid; we've learned that the promises of biotech were short lived at best and to various degrees, simply false. The new GE crops are basically the old GE crops, just redesigned to resist different, more toxic herbicides while having become less effective at killing insect pests.
No, the Farmer Assurance Provision and the Farm Bill riders -- are not about farmers, nor are they about speeding needed crops to the waiting public. They're about getting fast rubber stamp approval for new, profitable GE crops.
These riders are an effort to end run Congress, the Courts and the Constitution.
Corporate collusion with government is not new, but this takes it to a new level. By allowing corporations to subvert the Constitution, Congress is saying that corporate influence and profits are more important than the best interests of the people.
Corporations are not people, my friends, despite the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.
Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc, WI, and member of National Family Farm Coalition through the Family Farm Defenders.