The recently signed Farmer Assurance Provision, better known as the Monsanto Protection Act, has received a ton of attention on social media in the past few weeks. The public backlash culminated in a worldwide “March Against Monsanto” on May 25 in several countries. The marches, however, were mostly censored by mainstream media.
Few actually understand (or even know about) the details of the Monsanto Protection Act, or its implications for the world of agriculture. Particularly concerning to the public is the revelation of close relationships between corporate farms and the federal government that the passing of this legislation revealed. And equally worrisome is the accompanying potential for consumer risk.
Backroom Deals: A History Of The Monsanto Protection Act
The Monsanto Protection Act was part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, which was initially drafted and discussed during the summer of 2012. While the overall bill largely focused on preventing a government shutdown, details in the fine print of Section 735 focused less on an impending shutdown and more on enabling the selling and planting of genetically modified (GMO) seeds.
Federal courts are no longer able to ban corporations from pursuing this controversial agricultural practice as a result of the bill.
While the new legislation impacts a wide array of agricultural professionals, GMO and Roundup herbicide manufacturer Monsanto is clearly the primary beneficiary of the bill. Politico noted clear connections between Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo, and Monsanto, including a particularly close relationship with the company’s late chairman. Blunt is the primary author of the legislation.
The Potential Dangers Of GMOs
Although the backroom dealing of the Monsanto Protection Act is bothersome, what really has environmentalists and many agricultural experts worried is the fact that the legislation has left the door wide open for unrestricted use of GMOs.
The long-term effects of this technology is still not known, but many researchers suspect that it could lead to a number of health and environmental problems. For example, a study by the International Journal of Biological Sciences linked Monsanto’s genetically modified corn to organ damage in rats.
Monsanto was recently awarded a World Food Prize after the committee said the company’s biotechnology increased overall yields in crops and decreased the use of pesticides. But another study by the International Journal of biological Science, just leased in June, found that traditional breeding, but genetic manipulation, is the reason crop yields are up in the U.S. Monsanto responded, saying the study was done with an anti-biotech bias. But Jack Heinemann, the lead scientist in the study, is in fact a genetic engineer himself.
Further concerns have arisen beyond rodent testing. ‘Super weeds’ and more resistant bacterial toxins are becoming more common, which, as New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman points out, suggests a coming crisis in monoculture. As pests develop greater resistance to genetically modified crops, biotech corporations will continue to develop stronger herbicides, pesticides and genetic modifications. But such measures are invariably linked to greater risk for human consumers, as well as greater potential for a pest capable of decimating crops.
GMOs And Urban Farming
In light of the Monsanto Protection Act, small-scale urban farmers have been banding together in hopes of both informing the public of dangers related to GMOs and offering a safe and affordable alternative. Urban farming advocates believe that, in refusing to purchase food products involving genetically modified crops, consumers can send a strong message to both the offending corporations and the federal government.
If there is a silver lining to the Monsanto Protection Act, it’s that the legislation has caused the urban farming movement to attract new devotees. Although GMO labeling is not required in much of the nation, including nearly the entire state of Ohio, urban farmers have found that an Ohio boating license can make it possible for local consumers to catch their own steroid and chemical-free fish. And in Detroit, urban farms are beginning to take over abandoned properties in hopes of supplying poverty-stricken residents with fresh, healthy and affordable produce.
Monsanto still operates in relative anonymity, but as more people learn about the company, the more they want to take action. Concerned citizens can support the Truth In Labeling Coalition or write to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg directly. The only way major change can happen is if more people know about the damage GMOs can do to human health.
Write your local newspaper and television stations to voice your concerns as to the scant coverage of GMOs in media. You can also support retailers like Whole Foods, Fresh & Easy and other who have signed on with the Non-GMO Project.
- Cracks in GMO Empire Beginning to Appear (noahsprojectblog.wordpress.com)
- Why is the US government pushing other countries to buy GMOs? (redgreenandblue.org)
- Is Monsanto Trying To Kill Us With GMO Frankenfoods? (personalliberty.com)