With every bill passed in Congress, there is good news and bad news. The good news of HR 933 passing the House: we avoided a government shutdown (for now). The bad news: Congress authorized a provision known as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” protecting the agricultural giant from litigation.
The US House of Representatives quietly passed a last-minute addition to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for 2013 last week – including a provision protecting genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks.
The rider, which is officially known as the Farmer Assurance Provision, has been derided by opponents of biotech lobbying as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” as it would strip federal courts of the authority to immediately halt the planting and sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed crop regardless of any consumer health concerns.
Senator Jon Tester from Montana was the only opponent (which surely will come back to bite him in the ass in his next election cycle, when his opponent will say he “opposed preventing a government shutdown” and “wants us to fall into an economic rut” or something stupid).
The protection bill is dangerous for a few reasons. First, a lot of the people who voted for it didn’t know they were approving this particular addition because they didn’t read the whole bill. The protection provision was included anonymously, pointing to back-room wheeling and dealing, and it was packed into a bill trying to keep the government from shutting down.
Second, Monsanto has a history of litigation with their genetically engineered crops – they fought with DuPont over rights to genetically altered crops, they were found liable for a farmer’s memory loss and physical problems from inhaling their weedkiller, and recent studies have shown that the company’s engineered crops are leading to infertility in cattle and declining plant health. If they are protected from litigation, the company can continue to make dangerous products with no legal ramifications – allowing them to turn a profit while people, animals, and the environment suffer, not entirely unlike 2005’s Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and its protection of the gun industry.
And third, the Monsanto Protection Act is also dangerous because it sets a nasty precedent for future consumer protection cases. From the International Business Times:
“Though it will only remain in effect for six months until the government finds another way to fund its operations, the message it sends is that corporations can get around consumer safety protections if they get Congress on their side. Furthermore, it sets a precedent that suggests that court challenges are a privilege, not a right.”
It’s a continuation on the trend of corporations getting away with shafting their customers out of millions, leaving consumers worse for the wear and letting corporations off scot-free. Big Banks, the ones Too Big to Fail, cost customers billions of dollars only to be bailed out and refuse to pay back the taxpayers after making record profits. They take up a huge chunk of our economy and can make higher profits risking working families’ money than conducting ethical banking business, and they’re not being held accountable for that. Even champions like Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fighting for consumers and hard-working Americans who got hosed, it’s still not enough. Big Pharma has gotten away with murder for years – right now, they’re fighting pressure from the Obama administration to stop the “pay to delay” practice of keeping generics off the pharmaceutical market for years – keeping millions of Americans from being able to afford the drugs they need, and allowing Big Pharma to make millions off of their exclusive drugs.
With this deal, Big Agriculture is stepping up its game in consumer abuses and stopping consumers from holding them accountable for their actions. And that is wrong. The government should be protecting consumers, not big companies. If the products or services that a company provides to its customers are faulty, risky, or dangerous, they should be willing to either take them off the market or be held legally responsible for them.
This deal is nothing new – but it’s a disturbing pattern of “more of the same,” and further proof that our government isn’t doing enough to protect us from Big Business and special interests.