By Benjamin Goad - 05/20/13 09:06 PM EDT
Farmers have for years used genetically modified seeds that have been developed by Monsanto and other companies to resist herbicides. However their use has been the subject of numerous lawsuits filed by critics who warn of public health and environmental hazards.
Spurred on by food safety and public interest groups who have dubbed the provision the “Monsanto Protection Act,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Monday he would submit an amendment to the farm bill that would repeal it in its entirety.
“The Monsanto Protection Act is an outrageous example of a special interest loophole,” Merkley said in a statement. “This provision nullifies the actions of a court that is enforcing the law to protect farmers, the environment and public health. That is unacceptable.”
Merkley said the provision was “quietly and anonymously inserted” into the budget legislation to avoid public scrutiny.
Public interest groups including Food Democracy Now! lauded the planned amendment and have been circulating an online petition calling for the provision’s demise.
“For too long, Americans have been kept in the dark about the food that we eat and the science behind it because our elected officials are in the pockets of Monsanto, said Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now.
Monsanto has dismissed the suggestion that industry groups are behind a shadowy conspiracy, noting that the provision contains no mention of the firm. In a 2012 letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee, a coalition of industry trade groups urged lawmakers to adopt the provision as a defense against frivolous lawsuits designed to undermine science-based research.
“As we understand it, the point of the Farmer Assurance Provision is to strike a careful balance allowing farmers to continue to plant and cultivate their crops subject to appropriate environmental safeguards, while USDA conducts any necessary further environmental reviews,” Monsanto said in a statement issued after the continuing resolution’s passage in March.