Monsanto Protection Act

On March 26th 2013 a legal clause takes effect in the United States which allows Monsanto and other multinational GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) producers to ignore  judicial decisions to stop GMO sowing, either due to irregularities in its approval, lack of health and environmental impact evaluations, new scientific evidence that alerts health hazards or for any other reason. It is a global unprecedented exception now called “Monsanto Protection Act”.

With this decision, Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont-Pioneer, Dow, Bayer and BASF, the multinationals that control the cultivation of GMOs are now above the law. This also contravenes the separation of powers since it prevents the judiciary to review decisions taken by others.

A dreadful precedent has been set in the United States and around the world. It endorses a bankrupted approval system for GMOs since the impact data is provided by the company itself which has  obvious profit interests in their release. Furthermore, it impedes civil organization’s actions that have already conquered judicial decisions preventing the sowing of GMOs that failed to be submitted to environmental impact evaluation or for which there was evidence of serious potential damage. With Monsanto’s Protection Act, no court can request an interruption in sowing. Moreover, it prevents the federal states from legislating on GMOs, even in their own land territory.

The agreed upon text is an intentionally complex and hard to understand paragraph in a 90 pages long document about different federal competences (called HR 933). It was surreptitiously introduced by Senator Roy Blunt who has been receiving generous “donations” for years from Monsanto and that has already admitted to the press to have co-written the document with the company. Several civil organizations have reported the danger behind this decision before its approval, gathering more than 250,000 signatures asking for the rejection of the provision. Senator Barbara Mikulski, president of the commission that validated the project has already come forward with apologies.

Although it is a United States legislation, it has a huge impact in the whole planet because it broadens the horizons and legal support for transnational transactions by  GMO producers in detriment of public interest of other countries, environment, human and animal health. This is the context in which “Monsanto laws” (wrongly called bio-security laws) are found, where laws in the whole continent have been written by companies with undiscerning scientists usually financed, or from other ways receiving money by the same companies. The case of Mexico and its bio-security law, called Monsanto Law since its approval, is an example of this. The government kept issuing complementary norms to disarm any use of the law in a cautionary sense. The clumsiest example must be what happened last November when, in order to avoid the effect of the article 88 of the bio-security law, which prevents the release of GM corn in Mexico, its center of origin, the government decided to change the world recognized map of the centers of origin stating that there are areas in Mexico which aren’t. This goes against the study performed by 70 institutions and hundreds of scientists, coordinated by Conabio that attested the whole country as a center of origin.

The companies need these laws to keep citizens and courts from taking legal action, since their GMOs are failing and provoking huge problems already. In the states of Paraná and Brasília in Brazil, Rede Globo (The Global Network) reported last week the failure of  Bt corn in terms of  resisting  insects because the corn earworm devoured the GM corn as soon as it developed resistance to the toxin that was designed to eliminate it. Due to GMO glyphosate resistance, more than half of the real-estates in the United States have been invaded by super weeds which the herbicides cannot kill. In Georgia, 92% of the real-estates contain super weeds that resist to one or more agro-toxins. (Tom Philpott, Mother Jones 6/2/13). In order to overcome these super weeds, multinationals are introducing GMOs resistant to the hyper-toxic herbicides Dicamba and 2,4 D (the later one being a component of the Agent Orange). The increase of contamination of soil, water and people of will be of unspeakable proportions. In the last months we’ve seen renowned scientific reports that GM corn led to cancer in mice and that in most GMOs there are part of a virus, not detected by the authorities which can have harmful effects in consumers’ health. After all this, these companies want impunity to sow GMOs at their will.

The good news is that the request from Monsanto, DuPont-Pioneer and Dow to plant GM corn in more than a million hectares in Sinaloa and Tamaulipas has already expired, although this hasn’t been announced by the government. Surely the numerous protests in Mexico as well as around the world against GM corn sowing in a center of origin have been worthwhile. Nevertheless, Monsanto has already filed three new applications for commercial and massive release of GM corn in Chihuahua, Coahila and Durango. They are open for public consultation until April, 29th ( in Spanish).

As we can see, the GM subject is clearly not only about environmental and health impacts, which are nevertheless serious. In the end, it is about letting multinationals making fundamental decisions about the basis of our survival, and against it, with total impunity.

Published in La Jornada on June 6, 2013

Original article: Silvia Ribeiro

Translation: Joana Chelo

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