On July 29th, while the nation was digesting Hillary Clinton’s acceptance of the democratic nomination for President, President Obama quietly signed S.764, the first national GMO labeling bill, into law. The bill was signed with no fanfare and little National press. Seemingly the answer to anti-GMO activists’ prayers, the bill mandates that companies disclose whether their food products contain genetically modified organisms—or does it?
Legislation was passed last week to continue funding the US government.
Regrettably, this legislation also included a provision titled the Farmer Assurance Provision (dubbed by critics as the Monsanto Protection Act) which works to protect GE seeds from litigation.
AGRA Watch disapproves of this provision because it allows the biotech industry to evade regulatory and judicial review, therefor, permitting the industry to set its own conditions to sell GE seeds. A blog posted by Doug Gurian-Sherman of Union of Concerned Scientists, states “The so-called biotech rider (S. 735), attached to the continuing resolution in the U.S. Senate, was designed to override successful lawsuits. It would overturn rulings by the courts that have protected citizens from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actions that subvert the legal obligations of the agency to protect farmers and the environment.”
The bill is set to expire in six months, and it remains unclear whether or not the provision will be short-lived. However, as Gurian-Sherman asserts, “Once a country throws open its doors to the biotech industry, it can expect a similar effort to weaken regulations for food safety and environmental protection.”
If interested in learning more, a recent Salon article titled How Monsanto Outfoxed the Obama Administration, also discusses how the biotech industry influences government regulations.
At the June 2012 G8 meeting, President Obama announced his New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which promises to assist development of African agriculture with the help of large corporate backers. Critics, however, argue that bringing the world’s largest seed and agricultural chemical companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont into the picture to help solve hunger in Africa is not the right approach. Disguised under the veil of philanthropy, these large corporations may be looking out more for the success of their businesses rather than the well-being of African farmers. The author of this article notes that while agricultural assistance is certainly needed in Africa, more thought should be put into who should control it.