URGENT: Don’t Let the Biotech Industry Sneak This In!June 18, 2012
Congress is considering a sneaky, pro-GMO rider to a funding bill, and it may become law without anyone realizing it—unless you take action NOW!
The biotech industry has managed to insert a dangerous rider in support of genetically engineered crops into the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. It is scheduled to be heard by the House Appropriations Committee tomorrow, Tuesday, June 19, so we need you all to contact the committee immediately and voice your opposition! This is why we are taking the extraordinary step of sending out this newsletter a day early, to give you time to send in your message right away.
The provision would strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of illegal, potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops while USDA is assessing those potential hazards. In other words, even if a court said to halt the sale and planting of the genetically engineered crop until a USDA environmental impact statement was completed, the crop planting could still go forward!
Further, the provision would compel USDA to allow continued planting of that same crop upon request, even if USDA finds that the crop poses previously unrecognized risks. That’s right—the provision specifically mandates that the Secretary of Agriculture shall, upon request by a farm operator or producer, immediately grant a temporary permit authorizing the crops to continue being planted or cultivated, even if a court has called a halt until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed. They’re calling it the Farmer Assurance Provision (Section 733), but far from safeguarding farmers, the only parties whose interests are “assured” by this rider are those of GE crop developers.
This rider is almost certainly a response to the recent federal court interventions we’ve been telling you about, preventing the sale, distribution, or cultivation of non-regulated GE sugarbeets and GE alfalfa while full environmental evaluations are being done.
Environmental Impact Statements take years to complete and are an important method to slow—and perhaps even prevent—the planting of these dangerous crops. The provision is terrible for many reasons:
- This is an appropriations bill, and this rider has nothing to do with appropriations. This is an attempt to sneak an unrelated provision into a must-pass bill in the hope that it won’t be noticed. While we believe the entire provision is a dangerous one, at minimum it should have been presented in a bill of its own, to give it the full public exposure such a controversial subject deserves. We suspect the reason it wasn’t done this way is because it could never pass on its own—and they know that!
- The provision circumvents the judicial process. In several recent lawsuits, federal courts have ruled for farmers, businesses, and public interest plaintiffs, finding that USDA had violated federal law by failing to adequately consider the potential harms of GE crops it had approved. This rider is specifically intended to prohibit courts from imposing such reasonable restrictions in the event of similar cases in the future, undermining judicial authority in the interests of maximizing biotech industry seed sales. This outlandish provision would prevent a court from putting in place court-ordered restrictions, even if the approval were fraudulent or involved bribery. Congress should be supportive of an independent judiciary that is able to evaluate issues that affect the public and put the legal brakes on fraud and abuse.
- It could cause substantial harm to farmers—not to mention the agricultural economy. The provision would allow non-GE crops to be contaminated by neighboring GE crops, without proper environmental studies being performed. Seeds, crops, and foods that are contaminated with GE material cannot be sold in many international markets. Agricultural commodities contaminated by GE crops that have not been approved for commercial use in the US are particularly shunned.
The USDA already rubber stamps the approval and deregulation of GE crops. This rider, by law, provides USDA with even greater authority to continue to do so, no matter what the courts say.
The Ag Appropriations bill will be heard in the full committee tomorrow morning (Tuesday), and we hope that your messages will be enough to make them strike this dangerous provision from the bill. After the committee hearing tomorrow, the next step is for the bill to go to the floor, where we will have another opportunity to stop them, if necessary—but it would be much harder then!
Please contact the members of the House Appropriations Committee and oppose the rider TODAY—there’s not a moment to lose!