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How Congress let Monsanto off the hook

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(Article changed on March 29, 2013 at 20:44)


Not many people like the messes Congress makes but everybody should see how they're made.

This article takes a close look at the legislation just passed by Congress and signed by President Obama allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to issue executive orders that bypass regulations, safety, and science for the purpose of speeding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered seeds (GE) and crops to market.  The way the law is written, Secretary Tom Vilsack can lift restrictions on GMOs for a set period and, it appears, do so without hindrance from the courts.

Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs), seeds, and crops  safe for human consumption?  How has the scientific testing of these seeds been conducted and what are the results?  Is there undue influence of the government and legislative process to fast track the delivery of GMOs to market?  Who benefits from that influence, if it is present, and how are the benefits derived?

There is a claimed scientific consensus that GMOs are safe for food production but there are detractors and the general public is wary.  Most of us have or are eating food from genetically engineered seeds and crops.  In the U.S., 88% of the maize and soybeans are from genetically modified seeds.  These seeds are called "green seeds" to ride the environmental band wagon.  They'll solve world hunger too, according to some biotech advocates.  A review of studies on crop yields, however, shows that the impact of GMO's the actual yield of crops is not significant.

There can be little doubt that the legislation neuters the principles of open law making and government and scientific requirements for distribution of GMOs and GE seeds and crops, legislation tucked away in the budget act just passed.

There is no doubt that a leader in corporate food technology, Monsanto, is well represented in the Obama administration.  In 2010, the president appointed Mark Taylor, former Monsanto Vice President and lobbyist, as the Food and Drug Administration's food safety division.  That's real influence.

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The beneficiaries of this legislation are clear.  Whenever they come up with a very special Franken-gene, Monsanto, Lilly, etc., are off the hook and ready to roll without obstacles.  They just need a special order rubber stamped document  from the Secretary of Agriculture.  If he's too busy, they'll write it for him.

The following analysis of the specific legislation is important.  A review of the actual language shows how the turn of a phrase in a back room can make the U.S. government a partner in the furtherance of GMOs or any other product or service from an industry or group with the money and power to get things done.

The passage below is from the March 20, 2013 budget bill, the focus of controversy.  If you read the language marked in bold as one statement, you get a sentence (of sorts) that says the Secretary of Agriculture "shall" issue regulations to override impediments (e.g., court rulings) to the distribution and marketing of GMO's and genetically engineered crops.  The details of the linguistic slight of hand are explained after the passage.


In the Senate of the United States,

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March 20, 2013.

Resolved, That the bill from the House of Representatives (H.R. 933) entitled ""An Act making appropriations for the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other departments and agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes.'', do pass with the following


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