Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon has successfully pushed for the end of a law that protected Monsanto and other farm businesses from being sued for their genetically modified seeds. (Image Sources: Ralph Alswang/Center For American Progress, Medill DC)
One of the main corporate beneficiaries of the current federal government is Monsanto Company, best known for making the weedkiller Roundup, and also for making genetically modified seeds of crops, which adversely affect the ability of farmers to maintain their livelihood. Farmers have attempted to fight back, but Monsanto and other major farm companies have manipulated the law to prevent these farmers from suing them, through a temporary secret rider called the Farmer Assurance Provision, or more appropriately the Monsanto Protection Act. Now, a lawmaker, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, has moved to make sure the law expires at the end of the year, which seems likely.
While Roundup is the face of the company, Monsanto has also been responsible for remaking the makeup of crop seeds through genetic engineering, so that crops would be resistant to Roundup, and thus they could sell industrial-level amounts of the weedkiller to farms everywhere. However, the problem with their methods is that they tend to dominate the market, and make it impossible for farmers to maintain the millienia-old custom of saving seeds for the next planting, forcing them to buy new seeds every year.
Furthermore, due to cross-pollination, Monsanto's genetically-modified seeds can mix with other seeds to create hybrids, contaminating a farmer's crops. Along with this, Monsanto has been known to use tactics previously deployed by the music and movie industries to force farmers to destroy their crops and seeds due to copyright infringement. Monsanto has also lobbied hard, and have former executives currently serving the Obama administration, to ensure that their seeds are protected from the "riff-raff" of farmers who actually question buying them.
The Farmer Assurance Provision, as the Monsanto Protection Act is officially called, allowed for the continued sale of genetically-modified seeds and crops, even if they were deemed unsafe to farmers or public health. More specifically, farmers and others could not sue to prevent their sale, or even have an injunction put in place by the courts. Jeff Merkley previously attempted to override this secret rider, which was put in place during a spending resolution during the debt ceiling debate earlier this year, but failed.
Now, House Republicans added an amendment to the current spending bill going through Congress right now and causing Senator Ted Cruz to stand up like a weirdo for 21 hours without much of a reason which gives the Monsanto Protection Act an extension. Senator Jeff Merkley added an amendment to the Senate's version of the bill, ensuring that it will expire at the end of the year, and he has confirmed that he has enough votes to pass the amendment. It is one small victory in a campaign of attrition against special interests.