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July 09, 2012
Congressional Friends of GMOs Sneak Rider into Appropriations Bill
    by Robert Kropp

The rider will require that a permit for planting genetically engineered crops be issued even if a federal court orders that the planting be halted. reported last week on the findings of two genetic engineers associated with Earth Open Source relating to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods. Citing "a large and growing body of scientific and other authoritative evidence," their report challenged many industry claims regarding product safety and other critical issues.

Also, Food & Water Watch reported late last year that over the course of a decade the food and agriculture biotechnology industry spent nearly $600 million in political contributions and lobbying "to ease the regulatory oversight of genetically modified foods."

No legislator is better positioned to help his friends in agribusiness than Georgia congressman Jack Kingston, who is chairman of the House agricultural sub-committee. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that agribusiness has contributed almost $1.5 million to Kingston's election campaigns since 1997; in the current cycle alone, the total already surpasses $188,000.

Writing on AlterNet, two members of the Organic Consumers Association warn of a "so-called 'Monsanto rider,' quietly slipped into the multi-billion dollar FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill."

The rider, the authors state, "would require not just allow, but require - the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a genetically engineered crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed."

Last month, a coalition led by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) submitted a letter to the House Appropriations Committee, warning that "the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of US courts, jettisons the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation's farmers and food supply at risk."

"Reeling from federal court decisions that have found approvals of several genetically engineered (GE) crops to be unlawful, the biotech industry has quietly slipped a policy rider into the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill now being debated in the House Appropriations Committee," the letter states. "Far from safeguarding farmers, the only parties whose interests are 'assured' by this rider are those of GE crop developers."

The extent to which most sustainable investors hold Monsanto stock in their portfolios is unclear, but one such investor submitted a shareowner resolution with the company this year. Harrington Investments (HII) called on Monsanto to report on "material financial risks or operational impacts" associated with its products, especially GMOs.

The resolution gained nearly six percent support from Monsanto shareowners, which means that it can be re-filed next year.


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