Post by Maria Godoy, The Salt at NPR Food (3/21/13)
Tucked inside a short-term funding measure that Congress approved Thursday is a provision that critics are denouncing as a "Monsanto Protection Act."
The so-called "biotech rider" was included in legislation that won final approval from the House, avoiding a shutdown of the federal government on March 27, when the current funding was set to expire. The provision was slipped into the legislation anonymously. It explicitly grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to override a judicial ruling stopping the planting of a genetically modified crop.
On the face of it, that sounds pretty bad. And when environmental and organic farming groups got wind of it earlier this month, they mounted a campaign urging voters to call and email their senators and voice their outrage over the provision, which they denounced as a "giveaway to genetically engineered seed companies" and even an act of "fascism." Also dismayed was Montana Democrat Jon Tester, the Senate's lone active farmer, who had offered an amendment to strike the provision from the funding resolution.
The provision "tells USDA to ignore any judicial ruling regarding the planting of genetically modified crops," Tester said in remarks prepared for delivery on the Senate floor last week.