“Monsanto Protection Act,” Provison snuck into Law

“Monsanto Protection Act,” and How Did It Sneak Into Law? A provison that protects the biotech giant from litigation passed Congress without many members knowing about it:

"MON 810", a variety of genetically modified maize (corn) developed by Monsanto Company is pictured January 23, 2012. The agricultural giant posted a large increase in quarterly earnings on strong results in corn seed sales in the US and Latin America

“MON 810”, a variety of genetically modified maize (corn) developed by Monsanto Company.

“MON 810”, a variety of genetically modified maize (corn) developed by Monsanto Company. The agricultural giant posted a large increase in quarterly earnings on strong results in corn seed sales in the US and Latin America. Slipped into the Agricultural Appropriations Bill, which passed through Congress last week, was a small provision that’s a big deal for Monsanto and its opponents. The provision protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks and has thus been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” by activists who oppose the biotech giant. President Barack Obama signed the spending bill, including the provision, into law on Tuesday.

Since the act’s passing, more than a quarter million people have signed a petition opposing the provision and a rally, consisting largely of farmers organized by the Food Democracy Now network, protested outside the White House Wednesday. Not only has anger been directed at the Monsanto Protection Act’s content, but the way in which the provision was passed through Congress without appropriate review by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees. The biotech rider instead was introduced anonymously as the larger bill progressed — little wonder food activists are accusing lobbyists and Congress members of backroom dealings.

The Food Democracy Now and the Center for Food are directing blame at the Senate Appropriations Committee and its chairman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. According to reports, many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the “Monsanto Protection Act” even existed within the spending bill, HR 933; they voted in order to avert a government shutdown.

“It sets a terrible precedent,” the International Business Times. “Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right.”

Monsanto’s kills 1,500 Indian Farmers

Over 1,500 farmers in the Indian state of Chattisgarh committed suicide. The motive has been blamed on farmers being crippled by overwhelming debt in the face of crop failure:

over 1,500 farmers in the Indian state of Chattisgarh committed suicide. The motive has been blamed on farmers being crippled by overwhelming debt in the face of crop failure.

over 1,500 farmers in the Indian state of Chattisgarh committed suicide. The motive has been blamed on farmers being crippled by overwhelming debt in the face of crop failure.

While many may have been shocked by these deaths, farmer suicides in India, and increasingly across the world, are not new. Crop failure may have pushed farmers over the edge, but American companies have been leading them to the cliff for years. Bharatendu Prakash, from the Organic Farming Association of India, told the Press Association:

Farmers’ suicides are increasing due to a vicious circle created by money lenders. They lure farmers to take money but when the crops fail, they are left with no option other than death.

The article also quotes the UK’s Daily Mail, enlightening us further:

…The death of this respected farmer (Shankara Mandaukar) has been blamed on something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops. Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Oh yes, the promise of feeding the poor of every country via genetically-modified (GM) seeds. This approach to dealing with worldwide hunger and poverty is touted by the United Nations, NAFTA, and the US government. And as the Daily Mail article later notes, “pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and ‘agrarian distress’ that is the real reason for the horrific toll.” While poverty and drought have likely contributed somewhat to poor harvests, leading the farmers to stress about their family and land, the mass suicides might have more to do with the bank loans sometimes totaling $3,000 US that these farmers have to take out in order to buy Monsanto’s (the leader in GM) seeds. The way Monsanto approaches these farmers reminds me of 19th century snake oil salesman:

The salesmen tell farmers of the amazing yields other Vidarbha growers have enjoyed while using their products, plastering villages with posters detailing “True Stories of Farmers Who Have Sown Bt Cotton.” Old-fashioned cotton seeds pale in comparison to Monsanto’s patented wonder seeds, say the salesmen, as much as an average old steer is humbled by a fine Jersey cow.

Farmers have traditionally used seeds year after year and rotated their crops in order to get the most benefit from the land. Monsanto’s seeds, on the other hand, have to be paid for every year in order to “re-license” the seeds, sinking them deeper into debt. And oh, yeah, most of these seeds are “Terminator” seeds, which means they don’t actually produce viable seeds of their own.  Farmers throughout the world are dealing with these issues.