Will Those Sneaky GMO Amendments Pass Because of an Underhanded Maneuver?

July 31, 2012
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GMONot if we stop them!

As we reported a few weeks ago, these amendments represent a sneaky, behind-closed-doors attempt to make GMO foods immune from court review. Now we have learned of an even sneakier, even more questionable legislative maneuver that might get them passed.

The usual procedure for passing bills in Congress is for the House to pass its version and the Senate to pass its version. The two bills are reconciled by a joint conference committee, and then both chambers pass the final bill.

The Senate has already passed its version of the Farm Bill, the comprehensive omnibus bill that is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government for the next four or five years. The House version, which includes the sneaky pro-GMO amendments, has run into trouble. We have learned that the House Rules Committee has scheduled a hearing today (Tuesday, July 31) on a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill—a Continuing Resolution, or CR. If passed in the House (it will very likely fail in the Senate), this will trigger a conference committee.

But here’s the dirty trick: the conference committee won’t be reconciling the Senate bill with the House’s CR. Instead, it will reconcile the Senate bill that passed, with the House bill (including the bad amendments) that was never brought before the full House, much less passed by the House! If this illegitimate procedure is followed, the terrible GMO amendments could get into the final bill. Once this bill is final, it will be too late to strip out the amendments. The bill will pass.

There are a few pieces of legislation that are considered “must pass,” usually appropriations bills. Riders are often tacked onto these often unrelated bills in the hopes they’ll be approved without any fuss, since the main bill is essentially assured to pass.

This year, the powerful (and exceedingly well-funded) biotechnology industry inserted three pro-GMO amendments—two into the Farm Bill, and one into the Agriculture Appropriations Bill. These riders are wide-ranging and could change the face of the federal regulatory framework for genetically modified organisms. Only a large and powerful grassroots effort can compete against these riders.

This is the first time the GMO industry has ever asked Congress for everything it wanted. (We like to joke that they came just shy of asking for a magical unicorn!) The good news is that they showed their hand, so we now know exactly what they want and our allies in Congress know exactly what to watch out for.

The aforementioned Farm Bill riders would outlaw any EPA review of a genetically engineered crop under the Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. This terrible legislation would ensure that no agency other than the USDA (which is decidedly pro-GMOs) will be allowed to provide analysis of the impacts of GMO crops. Further, the riders also establish extremely short deadlines for approval of GMOs. If the crops are not reviewed and approved within the extremely short timeline, they would default to immediate approval and commercialization.

Here’s where we stand now:

  • The current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30. However, as of this writing, the bill has not been scheduled for a floor vote.
  • Our sense from our work on Capitol Hill is that the House leadership doesn’t want to bring the bill to the House floor because it won’t pass. This is mostly because of Republican infighting over the level of spending cuts in the bill.
  • If the House passes the Continuing Resolution on the current (2008) Farm Bill—a CR in the Senate is likely to fail—a joint conference committee will be convened to reconcile the Senate’s version with these un-passed, un-debated, and most likely unnoticed GMO riders. It may be just another procedural bending of the rules for Congress, but we consider it to be an example of illegitimate legislative sleight-of-hand.
  • Through this very tricky strategy the House bill won’t actually go on the floor for a vote, so our allies in the House won’t have any opportunity to strike the biotech riders by amendment. We are preparing for this eventuality—and we’re lobbying members of the conference committee.

Don’t let these riders sneak in through the back door without being debated and passed by the House! Please contact your representatives immediately and voice your objection to this rider. Take Action Now!

Take Action!

In addition, a third rider—the one attached to the Agricultural Appropriations bill—would, as we noted earlier this month, strip federal courts of the authority to halt the planting of genetically engineered crops while the USDA is still assessing their environmental hazards. If this language stands, it will completely undermine the judicial review process, and will encourage the unchecked deregulation of GE crops despite terrible environmental and health effects.

Here’s where we stand now:

  • The bill has already been passed out of the House Agriculture Committee with the GMO language still intact.
  • Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has agreed to offer an amendment to strike the GMO rider from the bill entirely—assuming the bill is actually heard on the floor.
  • ANH-USA is lobbying members of the Agricultural Appropriations Committee, and so far Rep. DeLauro has committed her support for DeFazio’s amendment.
  • We are also targeting the Blue Dog Coalition, especially Reps. Shuler and Barrow, who are leaders in the caucus. At the same time, we are approaching members of the Judiciary Committee to oppose the rider because it’s piggybacking on an appropriations bill rather than offering it as a separate bill on its own right, subject to open debate.

Urgent action is still needed—it’s possible they’ll consider the appropriations bill this week before they recess, so please send your messages today! However, after our meetings on Capitol Hill it appears that the Agriculture Appropriations bill will likely be dropped into a new omnibus spending bill to be considered after the recess, in which case it is unlikely the GMO rider language will be included. Unlikely, but not impossible—so please contact your congressional representative right away.

Take Action!

9 Responses to “Will Those Sneaky GMO Amendments Pass Because of an Underhanded Maneuver?”

  1. 2¢ worth says:

    Lobbyist’s and riders should not even be a part of our political system.. If a bill fails, more than not it was a terrible proposal.. They should be dropped and never brought up again within the originator’s terms because if their no good for America then what would have changed further on down the road? We allow bigger than life reps and leaders this chance to keep trying to screw us.. If a man is found not guilty in a court of law then he can never be charged with that crime again.. Same should go for bogus bills that blatantly serves others rather than the Nation, once rejected it should die.. Revising it, making it better than it was is one thing, it could be revisited but to resend or worse, make it even worse than it was should immediately put up a red flag and the perpetrator fired along with the money grubbing lobbyist that keep it recurring by threatening and paying off votes in the name of the special interest groups with the strings to pull.

       0 likes

  2. Robert Cruder says:

    It is actually quite rare that legislators make law based on fact. Most, especially of late, lob obvious fabrications at each other hoping that one of them will cause damage to their opponent.
    Eventually, they vote the will of their campaign contributors ragardless of fact.

    In this case, they wisely reject the obvious fabrications being lobbed by the anti-GMO crowd. If nothing else, this is a turf issue. When it comes to crafting baseless stories to frighten and manipulate the public, Capitol Hill bristles at any competition.

    I would normally recommend two alternaties. One requires accumulating peer-reviewed science to support one’s position. As we have seen with climate change and gay marriage, that succeeds only over a period of decades.

    The other alternative is to accumulate large sums of money and manipulate the legislators with the carrot of contributions and the stick of attack ads. Since the “organic” food industry stands to make Billions from any GMO labeling law, tell them to pony up.

       0 likes

  3. Don Jusko says:

    I thought piggy-backing was going to be made illegal? Didn’t this bill get anywhere? Why not, it had plenty of grass-root support. Who was involved in stabbing us?

       2 likes

  4. Jim Smith says:

    Why isn’t anybody publishing the names of the people trying to sneak this legislation through? I haven’t seen any names. The names should be published and the people in their districts and all over allowed to know who is bought and paid for by Monsanto.

       6 likes

    • Richard Pawley says:

      I too would like to know the names of those who keep trying to drown us in untested (on humans) new and unnatural seeds and foods.. There is a reason why some consider Monsanto “the most evil company on earth”. No one seems to question why the Amish have only one in 15,000 cases of Autism while the rest of us have one in a 100. The Amish eat no GMO food unless they work outside the home, which is rare. They grow their own food with natural seeds and have the same rate of Autism that we all had before GMO foods were fostered onto the American public. Of course you will never here this from the bought and paid for scientists and politicians who insist such facts are meaningless and only a coincidence. How come the knowledgeable rich, like the Queen of England won’t eat GMO food but have their own natural gardens? Could it be they know something Americans don’t? And why is Monsanto spending tens of millions to defeat the California proposal to require that GMO be mentioned on those products that contain it? All just a coincidence. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

         1 likes

  5. rene cook says:

    Thanks for the concise explanation of what is going on, because it is clear that no one else has a clue. How could they? Oh that’s right, the ‘revolving door’ where lobbyists and legislators are indistinguishable from each other. What a way to run a country! It is immoral and seems insane and has allowed the lose of our rights to health, gone along with all the rest of them, but most people don’t see it or are afraid to acknowledge it. I came ‘back to the land’ in the days of the counterculture and I believe that it’s revival is offering low-tech, non-toxic ways of living conducive to life not corporations. Buy some organic heirloom seeds, plant a garden,grow it, eat it and put food up, save the seeds, repeat. This is in important part of how we fight GMO’s, one seed at a time. One step removed from what those in DC are up to.

       13 likes

    • dez says:

      Why not state laws baring GMO seeds and crops from the state. Would this not stop this idiocy. Countries are barring GMO seeds, crops and products, Why not our states.

         0 likes

  6. Peter says:

    Hey, Everyone! If you agree with this viewpoint, please post this article on your Facebook page where the box is to share stuff.

       8 likes

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