Opponents of Genetically Modified Foods Assail Monsanto Protection Act in House Spending Bill

Food safety advocates are assailing House Republicans for including a controversial carve-out for biotechnology companies in a government funding bill.

September 14, 2013 | Source: The Hill | by Ben Goad

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The stopgap spending bill, which has an uncertain future in the House, would leave intact the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” that allows biotechnology companies to sell genetically modified seeds, even if a court has blocked them.

“Its inclusion is a slap in the face to the American public and our justice system,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for Center for Food Safety.

For years, farmers have used genetically engineered seeds developed by Monsanto and other companies to resist herbicides. But the practice has attracted numerous lawsuits filed by critics who warn of public health and environmental dangers.

A coalition of more than 100 food safety groups, organic farmers and other organizations sent a letter Wednesday to Democratic leaders in the Senate, urging them to strip the provision out of the spending bill designed to keep the government running after Sept. 30.

The groups contend that extending the measure, formally known as the Farmers Assurance Provision, would undermine the judicial branch by stripping federal courts of their authority to halt sales and planting of genetically modified crops.

“This rider sets a dangerous precedent for congressional intervention in the judiciary,” the groups wrote. “The ability of courts to review, evaluate and judge an issue that impacts public and environmental health is a strength-not a weakness-of our system.”

Further, they argue, the provision could threaten U.S. food safety and the stability of export markets.