Section 735/Monsanto Protection Act controversy

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Environmental activists apparently want someone in Congress to blame for including the Section 735 rider in the appropriations bill. The rider gives a degree of protection to farmers who plant biotech crops that are challenged in court by activists against a specific crop or seed. 

Most U.S. farm organizations representing farmers, crop protection product manufacturers and seed companies want extension of a law that allows farmers to grow a genetically modified crop while regulatory approval of the variety is being challenged in court. The law currently allows farmers to harvest and sell the crop no matter what comes down during the court process because the crop was initially approved for planting, and the farmer shouldn’t be put in financial hardship.

The Section 735 language has been law and was not controversial in mainstream agriculture circles. Until reauthorization was included in the spending bill, the anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) groups weren’t gaining much traction.

Now that there is controversy, Reuters news service reports, no one in Congress claims complete ownership of Section 735 of the spending bill. It is a 22-line provision that has ignited opposition to what has been dubbed by activists as the "Monsanto Protection Act."

The legislation is lauded by the aforementioned farm groups, who have vowed to try to extend the life of the statute beyond its Sept. 30 expiration at the end of the fiscal year. Meanwhile the anti-GMO groups are demanding it be eliminated immediately.

Food safety advocacy groups frequently ask for a temporary injunction against sale of seeds when they challenge U.S. approval of genetically modified crops. So Section 735 is seen by the activists as benefiting Monsanto and other companies selling GM crop seed. Monsanto is almost always the brunt of attacks by activists, therefore, the Section 735 nickname.

Lawmakers aim to pass a new farm bill by this fall. "We'll certainly try to get that (the rider) language put into the farm bill," Mississippi farmer Danny Murphy, president of the American Soybean Association, told Reuters.

He said lawsuits have delayed farmer access to profitable biotech varieties for years at a time. "We think it's important farmers have the certainty once they plant a crop they would be able to harvest it," Murphy said.

Reuters also reported that biotech foe Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, called Section 735 a backroom deal that muzzles the power of federal judges to prevent the cultivation of inadequately reviewed biotech crops.

The activists opposing Section 735 farmer protection are the typical crowd that opposes almost anything related to GMOs. Opponents range from organic food advocates and small-farm activists to environmentalists, consumer groups and the American Civil Liberties Union. (A previous article about Section 735, "There is no Monsanto Protection Act," received many comments from people who are positive, without evidence, that GM-crop foods are dangerous to eat.)

The language was placed into the 240-page government funding bill in the Senate with no author attached. Even the groups who support the provision say they do not know who put it into the bill. Also, no one claimed credit during debate, noted Reuters.

The appropriations bill was passed on March 22 and signed by President Barack Obama on March 28—even though activists against Section 735 say they had gathered thousands of signatures opposing the biotech rider.

After more than a decade of GM crop production in the U.S., being a proponent of the technology that helps feed the world of today and will be key for the future, according to most farm groups, has become a hot potato for members of Congress.

Senior members of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate pointed at each other when asked who was behind Section 735. Two senators said the House panel was responsible because it backed the idea last year in a bill that failed to advance, Reuters noted.

A spokesman for Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, tabbed as the 2012 sponsor, said Kingston had no role this year. Speculation has since centered on Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Monsanto's home state. His aides did not respond to Reuter queries, but he has accepted that he was instrumental in the rider and the original bill that passed Congress.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski "didn't put the language in the bill and doesn't support it either," said spokeswoman Rachel MacKnight. She said Section 735 was an unavoidable carry-over from House-Senate negotiations last fall.

MacKnight also made it clear that Mikulski has supported labeling of genetically modified foods and will fight for "valuable priorities, including food safety." The interpretation is that farmers cannot look to Mikulski for support about anything to do with GM crops.

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Minnesota  |  April, 05, 2013 at 10:28 AM

"The interpretation is that farmers cannot look to Mikulski for support about anything to do with GM crops." Rather depends on whether the farmers support GMO crops or not.

Illinois  |  April, 05, 2013 at 11:26 AM

riders like this need to have sponsors identified before it gets into a bill. if not "claimed" by anyone, then it is not good public policy--regardless of what the bill is, not just this one.

April, 05, 2013 at 11:37 AM

The entire controversey behind GMO crops seems like a matter of simple arithmetic: you have a growing population and a finite amount of farmable land. If the population continues to increase while the farmable land mass stays constant then there will naturally be a shortage of food. Barring a complete overhaul of population management, engineering healthier, and more robust crops seems like a viable option. So, I pose the question, "Why shouldn't people explore every option to try and solve the problem?" However, I completely understand the need for sanctions and regulations. While this agricultural movement doesn't seem to be on pace with the Industrial Revolution, I'm hoping the American people can learn from the errors of their fathers regarding ecologically sound and sustainable growth. As I'm not as up-to-date on the arguments against GMO crops, I'd be interested to hear what they have to say.

midwest  |  April, 05, 2013 at 12:31 PM

In regards to land, most land is used to animal production. 80%+ gmo corn is fed to these animals as feed. the amount if waste here is astronomical. The chemicals used in GMO crops were also used in agent orange. Consumers have a right to know what chemicals are being manufactured into their food. And Monsanto has cronies and lobbyists ensuring they get their way.

Minnesota  |  April, 05, 2013 at 01:46 PM

Jason, here's a good palce to start:

San Francisco, CA  |  April, 05, 2013 at 04:06 PM

No chemical used in Agent Orange has been used to genetically modify anything. You are thinking of 2,4-D which was one of several herbicides that was mixed with some defoliants to make Agent Orange. 2,4-D is a broad leaf killer commonly used on lawns. There has been talk (or work done) on genetically modifying crop plants to resist 2,4-D. These crops would not be made with 2,4-D. Not sure if it's still in the making, especially now that Bayer has released Liberty Link. Liberty (like roundup) also kills grassy weeds, which 2,4-D does not.

Sammamish, WA  |  April, 05, 2013 at 07:58 PM

Your comments seem reasonable. Here is the thing: What if the GMO-related seeds provide an optimal harvest to feed as many as possible and work on "population-management" at the same time by slowly destroying mankind and various elements of the planet; maybe not in our lifetime. In the extreme only one group may survive and that is pests because they continue to adapt to pesticides. GMO seeds are developed to succeed "efficiently" at all costs and only time will tell how much the people of the future were forced to pay so that we may be feed in the near term and so that huge corporations may continue to reap (rape?) huge profits.

April, 07, 2013 at 03:58 PM

Forget the gmo aspect of this, this is a constitutional matter. The rider is a dangerous removal of checks and balances on a federal agency. Regardless of the benefit, no true American would ever support such a measure. There are other remedies for frivolous lawsuits, removing a fundamental principle of governance established by the constitution is not one of them.

Jerome, ID  |  April, 08, 2013 at 03:44 PM

You need to understand the science involved here. Chemicals are not being put into crops genetically. Crops are being genetically manipulated to resist the effects of herbicides that would normally damage or destroy them. Again no chemicals are "being manufactured" into your food.

Jerome, ID  |  April, 08, 2013 at 04:05 PM

Hunger and starvation are real and examples of these horrors can be found in many undeveloped countries today. GMO seeds are developed to combat plant disease, insect pests, drought, be resistant to some herbicides, and etc. This is not the same as at all costs as this implies we know and are willing to sacrifice something to obtain something else and that is not the case. Your argument is based on theory whereas hunger and starvation are real as are their outcomes. Imagine what our world would be like today if we had applied your theory to something like electricity.

william cisney    
42431  |  April, 08, 2013 at 05:51 PM

Joe, Get your facts before trying to stir up the public. Agent Orange was nothing more than 2-4-5-T. That kills everything. How can a GMO plant survive with a gene that kills everything? I think Monsanto is forward looking. More land is being consumed by concrete. We better find a way to grow food products on less land and do it efficiently. I imagine you believe in lobal Warming. We all should because it has been going on since the ICE AGE. Long before factories came along and greenhouse gases.

Australia  |  April, 08, 2013 at 08:48 PM

Rubbish. Agent Orange and GMO's have nothing to do with each other. The main point of GMO crops so far is that they reduce harmful pesticides. There has never been a single reputable scientific study showing GM crops to be harmful. The same cannot be said of the pesticides they replace.

Danville, in.  |  April, 08, 2013 at 10:09 PM

I read recently the biggest problem with Agent Orange was the dioxin which is not nor ever was in 2,4D or 2,4-5T which was the other component.

Actively Informed    
April, 09, 2013 at 03:19 AM

Daws, You may want to update your research because Agent Orange and GMOs actually do have one major connection, Monsanto. Monsanto has manufactured both. As we know, Agent Orange has had devastating effects on humans and the environment, and it happens to be only one of the harmful chemicals/products manufactured by Monsanto. I'd be interested in hearing how GM crops replace pesticides. They are built to resist large amounts, specifically Monsanto made pesticides, but I don't see how they allow for a farmer to use less chemicals. Honestly, If you want to go on eating GM foods that is wholly your choice. By all means, it is certainly your life and your family. My one hope is that anyone reading this thread or any other articles or blogs about this subject doesn't just take one's word for it. At the very least, I hope each and every person will do even just a little research so they can make an informed decision for themselves and their family.

April, 09, 2013 at 03:28 AM

Please tell me how this is better.

Texas  |  April, 09, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Tim, GMO crops have yet to show an increase in production. All increases have come from traditional breeding. GMO's are strictly an economic issue. Less passes over the fields saves money for the grower and makes money for the chemical companies.

Missouri  |  April, 09, 2013 at 04:34 PM

"Actively Informed's" comments about not understanding the relationship of GM crops to less total pesticide use by farmers exposes an "actively uniformed" foundation for then expressing such opinionated conclusions about the subject matter. We live in strange times where the totally uniformed substitiute their phobias for substance on discussion boards.

Actively Informed    
April, 10, 2013 at 02:09 AM

Dear Innsbrook, I think you missed the point a little when interpreting my comment. I was actually looking for some convincing evidence. Maybe I should have spelled it out a little better. I have done my research on both sides of the argument, so to correct you, I could not possibly be "actively uninformed", which would imply that I avoid any an all information on the subject all together. What I think you meant was you simply just don't agree with my position. Here are some articles on the subject, which I am sure you have read, of course. If you need me to post more I'd be happy to. Like I said in my comment to Daws, if you want to continue to buy, eat and feed GM products to your family, by all means go ahead. That's certainly your choice and your right to make it.

Missouri  |  April, 10, 2013 at 11:18 AM

Actively Informed, you claim to not understand how GMO crops lead to less pesticide (they do) yet you rely on internet articles from eclectic sources to form your "actively informed information" I suspected, you have no direct background in farming or crop production or you would be able to sift through facts and activist messages posted on the internet. Inaddition, you need to do a little more fact checking on Agent was manufactured during that period by Monsanto, among other chemical companies, under direction of a formula presented to them by the U.S.Government for use in Vietnam. Monsanto served as their agent, but were not the creator of Agent Orange. The U.S. Government concocted the formula and contracted it to various manufacturers who had the facilities to meet their needs. Knowing these facts would make you more worthy of your moniker.

April, 10, 2013 at 09:43 PM

Innsbrook, if you actually read what I wrote you'll note I did not say Monsanto created Agent Orange, I said they manufactured it, just as you stated. I also know all about Agent Orange, but thank you for the refresher lesson. Studies show that when GM seeds were first introduced there was a decline in pesticide use. However, over time the emergence of glyphosate (Round Up) resistant weeds has actually caused an increase in use.

Elkhorn, CA  |  April, 16, 2013 at 08:18 PM study that states GMO corn has greatly reduced nutritional value. Study reveals GMO corn to be highly toxic etc, interesting study which will be discredited, of course.

May, 25, 2013 at 07:33 AM

Rather, the fact that Monsanto et al (GMO biotech) can release their patented DNA into the wild, with all its possible health & environmental consequences, and which cannot ever be recalled, is why it's controversial.

May, 31, 2013 at 01:03 PM

We are not Activist... We are consummers. And all you are claming here is BS. It appears we know whom is paying your salary.. They are distroying the natural cycle of nature, The plant Kingdom and The amimal kingdom. It is not thier's dominate and control. All they see is $$$ . May they reap what they sow ten fold.

Jeffrey Piter    
WBP , FL  |  September, 15, 2013 at 11:16 AM

You really need to read more. The major culprit is the 2,4-5T loaded with dioxins because to was made at a high temperature to increase production. As a victim of STATESIDE use at Ft McClellan, I've been doing lots of research. Thanks to two days of spraying this stuff without protective equipment, I am now in kidney failure, and since my wife handled the contaminated clothing , we had to miscarriages and a Down Syndrome son. Thanks Monsanto. I think the protection from AO responsibility needs to be eliminated so the Cooperation bears the costs, not just the taxpayers. Unfortunately as long as uninformed voters keep voting against their own self intrusts the Republicans SOB's won't go away.


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