Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dangerous Farm Bill provision

Farm groups and public interest advocates join forces to oust dangerous ‘Biotech Provision’ from agriculture spending bill
The True Food Network
June 19, 2012

Hidden rider poses unprecedented constitutional assault, blocks USDA authority and denies GE crop safeguards

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and a coalition of farm, food safety, environmental and consumer advocacy groups today formally submitted a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations voicing strong and immediate opposition to the so-called “farmer assurance provision” (Section 733) that was quietly inserted in the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of U.S. courts, jettisons the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation’s farmers and food supply at risk.

Flying under the radar as committee debate starts today, the “farmer assurance provision” is engineered to strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of illegal, potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) assesses potential hazards. It also would inexplicably force USDA to allow continued planting of a GE crop even if a court of law identifies previously unrecognized risks. In addition, Section 733 targets vital judiciary oversight over USDA approvals by barring courts from compelling USDA to take action against agriculture policies that may harm farmers and the environment.

The coalition letter identifies the rider as a deliberately designed attempt to exchange long-established policies of good governance and lawful, impartial public review for the guarantee of control and profitability by a handful of biotech companies.

“This is nothing more than a Monsanto profit assurance provision,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. “There is no doubt that the objective of this explosive Appropriations bill insertion is to empower a single corporation and a few of its industry friends to move beyond the control of the U.S. courts, USDA and public review to make their own rules and profit from slippery backdoor politics.”

In addition, the provision has the capacity to harm farmers and damage the U.S. agricultural economy. With an increasing number of global markets requiring agricultural products grown without the use of GE technology, many seeds, crops and foods contaminated with GE material cannot be sold in many international markets. If the provision evades detection and becomes law, USDA would be forced to immediately approve all permits for continued planting of an unapproved biotech crop, potentially exposing other farmers to substantial damages and putting the viability of U.S. agriculture markets at risk, as was the case with the StarLink corn and LibertyLink rice contamination episodes. This directly counters the established guidelines of the Plant Protection Act of 2000, which require USDA to regulate GE crops to protect “the agriculture, environment, and economy of the United States.”

“This provision has nothing to do with farmers, and everything to do with the biotech industry’s sales,” said Dena Hoff, vice president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “Far from safeguarding farmers, it evades the law of the land and endangers their way of life and their livelihoods. The only parties whose interests would be assured are the corporations developing biotech crops.”

Signed by Center for Food Safety, National Family Farm Coalition, ACLU, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Organic Trade Association, Earthjustice, Organic Valley, Union of Concerned Scientists and many others, the letter was delivered to Appropriations Committee chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) and the Committee’s ranking member, Norm Dicks (D-WA).

“It’s no accident that game-changing policy riders like these are buried deep inside the pages of appropriations documentation,” said Kimbrell. “Daylight and open, public review are the enemy of a private agenda. Our hope is that by exposing this senseless, unlawful and arrogant biotech industry ploy the Committee will quickly end a debate that should never started in the first place.”

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