Obama Can’t Fix Congress’ Monsanto Giveaway with an Executive Order
By: Sarah Jones Mar. 27th, 2013 Updated March 29th, 2013 by Nathaniel Downes
Food activists (and generally sane people) are outraged, as they should be. 250,000 voters signed a petition opposing the act and others called for Obama to strike the Monsanto provision (aka, “biotech rider”) from the spending bill.
“Passing the Monsanto Protection Act is the last straw for millions of Americans who are tired of being betrayed by their elected officials,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now! “We’re calling on President Obama to stand up for family farmers and the Constitution and veto the Monsanto Protection Act.”
The problem is that the President does not have line item veto power; it’s all or nothing. This is called a poison pill. As part of the short term spending bill, President Obama had to sign the resolution in order to prevent the federal government from shutting down today, March 27, when the current funding was set to expire. He doesn’t get to cherry pick what parts he signs into law. He either lets the goverment shut down or he signs the poison pill.
The Monsanto Protection Act is outrageous to anyone who pays attention to our current food safety issues. It essentially temporary deregulates genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to override a judicial ruling stopping the planting of a genetically modified crop, and thus grants temporary permits for farmers to plant and grow genetically modified crops.
Food Democracy Now! issued a statement, “If leadership in Washington, D.C. can betray the public behind closed doors, it’s time that the American public gain the right to transparency about what they are eating and feeding their families every day.”
Transparency regarding our food would be great. It hardly seems like we’re asking for too much on this one. Just tell us what crap you’re putting in the stuff we put into our bodies, so we can make our own choices. It’s telling that the corproate food industry fights so hard against identifying clearly what’s in our food.
Food activists are now calling for the President to issue a signing statement and/or executive order to label our food, “Today we’re calling on President Obama to issue an executive order to call for the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.” A signing statement would have been issued while signing the legislation, and would have claimed that part of the law was unconstitutional. However, it wouldn’t have changed how the law was implemented.
An executive order cannot make new law; only Congress can do that. An executive order tells a President’s administration how he wants a law implemented; it gives direction to officers and agencies of the executive branch. But here’s the real kicker: Even if President Obama were to sign an executive order to label our food (we have no indication as to whether he would be inclined to do so), Congress could deny funding its execution, just as they have with his order to close Gitmo.
When it comes to laws, it always comes back to Congress. Our food safety has been severely compromised by corporate lobbyists’ ever-tightening control over our representatives. If people really want things to change, they need to be able to identify the individuals behind these cowardly acts.
Here’s a hint: Republican Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) takes the most money from pro-GMO PACs in the Senate Appropriations Committee, where this dastardly rider was secretly attached (this time, that is. We have a certain House Republican who tries to attach a similar amendment to almost every bill that touches his greedy fingers). Democratic Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) tried to get the amendment taken out of the spending bill to no avail.
While HR 933 expires in six months, I have little hope that we will see any major changes in food safety while our Congress is controlled by big ag/corporate money. The AP reported on Maplight’s analysis, “Current members of Congress have received $7,450,434 from the PACs of these organizations.”
No matter who is in the White House, Congress controls the purse strings and makes the laws, and they are more than adept at using current crises (manufactured by them, of course) to attach corporate giveaways to big spenders.
This is yet another beyond frustrating poison pill.
People should still protest and sign petitions, because that is the only power the people have to get their voices heard on issues. But our Corporate Congress will continue protecting the profits of their donors until we find a way to stop it.
Update: new information from Addicting Info.
Conservatives Laugh As Liberals Attack President Over Non-Existent ‘Monsanto Protection Act’
If you’ve been on the internet any time since Tuesday, it is likely that you have seen something about what is being called the ‘Monsanto Protection Act.’ It always looks as if it is that the President has signed a bill giving complete immunity to the Missouri based corporation. But even a casual glance into this, and the whole argument falls apart.
What is being referred to is an amendment to the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013″ signed into law on Tuesday. This act was implemented to avoid a government shutdown on Wednesday, by authorizing the president to pay the nations bills through October, when the new fiscal year begins. The particular provision being pointed to in this act is Section 735, within the agricultural portion of the bill. This section reads as follows:
SEC. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act is or has been invalidated or vacated, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon request by a farmer, grower, farm operator, or producer, immediately grant temporary permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with section 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements, including measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner: Provided, That all such conditions shall be applicable only for the interim period necessary for the Secretary to complete any required analyses or consultations related to the petition for non-regulated status: Provided further, That nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the Secretary’s authority under section 411, 412 and 414 of the Plant Protection Act.
A bit wordy and complex, as laws tend to be. However, this is not a new measure. This particular section is already law, passed as part of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, and was carried forward when that bill was merged in with numerous other ones to make this current bill. What this particular measure does is allow the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary deregulation status for a crop in the event that the crop is under litigation against the USDA’s approval of deregulation status, for the time period that the case is working through the courts. This means that attempts to damage a competitor, by filing suit against their crop, will not happen. Anybody can file a lawsuit in the United States. It would be incredibly easy for a competing firm to file a lawsuit against such a status for a crop grown by their competition, to effectively freeze that competition out of the market for the years needed for a case to work its way through the courts. This measure simply ensures that will not happen.
This measure also relieves a lot from the USDA’s legal department. Months, and millions of dollars, can be spent fighting injunctions in the courts before the case ever goes before the judge. By this measure, that money can be saved, and the legal proceedings sped up accordingly. Instead of needing up to a year just to address an attempted injunction, the case can proceed much quicker, bypassing this step in the process. This also means that farmers, from the smallest family farms to the largest corporate giant, do not have to live in fear that their crop will be targeted by a competitor.
Researching the origin of the measure finds us going to 2010, when the Supreme Court ruled inMonsanto vs Geertson Seed Farms that lower courts cannot prohibit the planting of crops during the litigation process. This rule is just the codification of the courts ruling, enabling the regulators to have a say in the process. Without it, there would be no process, and companies which do happen to produce a dangerous crop would have a free hand in planting. By codifying this, now the Secretary of Agriculture has final say, and while can grant such a waiver, now can, thanks to the Plant Protection Act which this derives its authority under, also refuse to grant such a waiver. In other words, now there is a protection put in place, while before there was not.
But where did these attacks against the provision come from? You find the origins among the darker corners of the internet, with the shady astroturf groups more commonly associated with organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heritage Foundation. Conservative organizations fuel the idea, and let left-wing pundits go into the fight to attack… the bill meant to prevent the government from shutting down. but why Monsanto, why use that label when the bill could as easily apply to ConAgra, US Sugar, or one of hundreds of other agricultural businesses?
It’s because Monsanto is one of the largest corporate supporters of climate change science, and is actively working to help ring the alarm.
The concerns over these crops comes from fear. People instinctively understand sex, and how that produces children. They do not instinctively understand gene splicing, even though that is how sex produces children in the first place. Most people do not have time to go out and understand it, so they label such modified products as “frankenfoods” and build fear upon lack of information, or worse purposeful misinformation fed by other industries who seek to hurt some related cause, such as climate change science. The fact is, some genetically modified crops have been shown to have substantial benefits, by making them more resistant to disease, adding essential nutrients, and even fight climate change. Genetic modification through direct gene splicing has been done since 1970, and is widely understood after decades of research and application.
Even snopes was quick to discredit the claims about the bill, finding it a mixture of fact and fiction, with the main claims of it granting immunity from prosecution as false.
Not only that, but this bill passed both houses of Congress with a filibuster proof majority. Even if it was as bad as some people are claiming the President couldn’t have vetoed it if he wanted to.
The bill as signed did not provide immunity to Monsanto or any other company, it only brought US Code into compliance with the Supreme Courts ruling, while also speeding up the litigation process over unregulated food crops.