The Act does not prevent CFS or any entity from filing a lawsuit against USDA or Monsanto. And it expires on September 30, 2013.
What is the “Monsanto Protection Act”?
The “Monsanto Protection Act,” or the biotech rider, was included as Section 735 in the 6-month Continuing Resolution (H.R. 933)* government spending bill at the behest of Monsanto and the biotech industry – and it expires on September 30, 2013. It is a direct response by the biotech industry to the substantial success CFS has gained in courts over the past decade—a blatant attempt to make it more difficult to improve genetically engineered (GE) crop oversight and protect farmers and the environment.
How Long Will the Rider Last?
The 2013 spending bill the rider was included in is only good for six months—from March to September—meaning that unless the rider is included again in future legislation, it will expire and be null and void on September 30, 2013. CFS and our allies in Congress are working hard to ensure that the “Monsanto Protection Act” dies at the end of the budget bill, and CFS is also lobbying to support an amendment in the current Farm Bill to repeal the rider. CFS has also received pledges from leading legislators, including the chair of the Senate Appropriations committee, Senator Barbara Mikulski, that the rider will not be included in the next appropriations bill.
What the “Monsanto Protection Act” Does and Does Not Do
Contrary to misinformation making the rounds on the web, the rider does not protect Monsanto, or USDA, or any other party from being sued for violating the law, or prevent CFS from filing a lawsuit. It also does not affect any pending litigation. It does, however, create an extra, unnecessary and extremely constitutionally questionable hurdle for CFS and other consumer organizations to jump over in litigation on behalf of farmers, consumers, and the environment.
Can CFS and other entities still file lawsuits against USDA and Monsanto?
Yes, and CFS will continue to file legal actions against government agencies or businesses that are unlawfully approving, selling, or cultivating GE crops.
How does the bill affect CFS’s lawsuits?
While the “Monsanto Protection Act” does not prevent CFS from suing over GE crops, it does make it harder for courts to impose strict protections. Specifically, while the rider is law, it means that if (1) CFS challenges a USDA GE crop approval in court, and (2) the court agrees with CFS that the government’s approval of that crop was unlawful, then (3) that Monsanto and other biotech companies can go to USDA and demand that the agency allow the unlawful crop’s planting to continue under field trial permits. However, those permits themselves can then be challenged in court, and USDA can add specific provisions in the permits to protect farmers and the environment from harm from these crops. The rider does not affect past CFS court victories, as it is not retroactive.
*Section 735 language:
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.