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How The Monsanto Protection Act Passed

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GMO Protest | Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr/Creative Commons License

With the nation's political news currently focused on gun control and gay marriage, it's easy to understand that not everybody is paying ultra-close attention to every little provision of every little bill that's being passed. But there's one group who should be, seeing as that's specifically what they're being paid to do, and that's members of Congress. But because they just skimmed rather than read an entire bill last week, there's a good chance our health is being put in danger.

Last week, President Obama signed into law H.R. 933, a sweeping piece of legislative that ostensibly keeps the government from shutting down by explaining where funds will be allocated for the rest of the fiscal year. A boring spending bill, in other words. But hidden in the bill's 107,000 words -- seriously, I sent the whole thing through a word count app -- is a section that changes how our country's legal system polices biotech giants like Monsanto:

The controversial "slipped in" part is the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act," Section 735 of the bill. It reads -- and if you're not a legally-minded person whose eyes don't glaze over whenever you see the word "notwithstanding," feel free to skip this section -- in full:

On the surface it doesn't seem all that bad. Who doesn't like protecting plants? But the actual goal of this provision is a lot more diabolical.

Before the bill was signed, if there was a concern voiced in the federal court system regarding the safety of a GMO-laced crop, the court had the right to bar that biotech manufacturer from planting/harvesting/selling that crop until the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent over some of their analysts to take a closer look. Which makes sense. If someone gave you a drink and said "maybe it's poison," you'd probably wait for lab results to get back before giving it a sip. But now, after that sneaky provision was added to the spending bill? Not allowed.

What's perhaps the most eerie part of how this all went down is just how few people in Congress seemed to know what they were signing:

Which is to say this is just evidence, once again, that there are some dirty, seedy, underhanded folks in the biotech business, and the one thing they don't need is less oversight. As Peter Lind at The Washington Times tries to remind everyone:

And now, because of the Monsanto Protection Act, for the next six months -- until the provisions in the bill cease to be implemented -- we're living in a world in which the mentality surrounding GMOs is less "better safe than sorry" and a lot more "sink or swim."

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