Section 735/Monsanto Protection Act controversy
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.