If your Facebook feed wasn't busy being filled with some rant or another on either side of the gay marriage argument this week, your liberal friends might have been steaming about the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act," more precisely known as Section 735 of HR 933, a spending bill signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday.
Section 735 effectively shields large biotech companies, like Monsanto, from the federal courts in case something is found to be harmful in their genetically-modified seeds. Because of Section 735, federal courts would be powerless to stop Monsanto from selling their product (not that the courts are the ones that necessarily will make them stop, but it's a pretty huge concession to the biotech giant).
Wait a second, you say. This was a massive spending bill — surely this provision would have gone before the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees, right? No way! Section 735 was an anonymous rider attached to the spending bill (the one everyone wanted signed really, really quickly) and received almost no consideration or attention before being signed into law. Whoops! (or, Yay!, if you're a large biotech company).
Some watchdogs like the Center for Food Safety have now pressured Democratic Senators into paying better attention about sneaky riders like this one, with the office of Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski releasing this statement:
As Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Mikulski's first responsibility was to prevent a government shutdown. That meant she had to compromise on many of her own priorities to get a bill through the Senate that the House would pass. She will continue to fight for a regular and timely Appropriations process and other valuable priorities, including food safety.
Essentially: Shit guys, come on, we wanted this done real fast and attaching this rider made it possible.
So is this so-called "Monsanto Protection Act" evil? Pretty much! If you can't be protected from a consumer product by the federal courts, you're essentially playing with fire (fire being a corporate entity with no checks on it). However, by sticking this into a spending bill and not actually passing it as legitimate legislation, the "Monsanto Protection Act" will expire in six months —- and then this whole crazy process starts again.