Debunking the conspiracy theories regarding the so-called Monsanto Protection Act
A recent post HERE dealing with what I called the “science deniers” of the political left included this passage:
What role does science play in the left-wing opposition to golden rice and other genetically modified crops? None. Study after study has shown no detectable deleterious effects on human health from genetically altered foods. And two studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have shown that golden rice is an even better vehicle for delivery of vitamin A than spinach, the wonder vegetable.
That stuff is brought to mind by THIS PIECE about a widespread conspiracy theory among liberals and mainstreamers alike regarding the supposedly evil folks at Monsanto:
The past week has seen a tsunami of stories about the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” more accurately known as Section 735 of HR 933. It’s a tiny provision attached to a massive agricultural spending bill signed into law by President Obama last week.
According to detractors, Section 735 is the “most dangerous food act ever” and a “terrifying piece of policy.” Why? Because, among other claims, it purportedly allows biotech companies to sell seeds that can cause serious consumer health problems.
Just as shocking, activists claim, the provision was secretly written by Monsanto, stealthily inserted into the bill in the dead of night by its Congressional backroom lackeys and then placed on the desk of President Barack Obama, who is so in hock to biotech special interests that he sold out the public and signed the bill, rider intact, therefore undermining American democracy. No kidding. That’s the way even mainstream bloggers and news outlets discuss this legislation. “Monsanto teams up with Congress to shred the Constitution,” shrieked one Huffington Post headline. Hundreds of thousands of angry anti-GMO protestors have signed online petitions expressing their outrage.
Let’s separate the facts from the fury.
The “stealth” claim is just plain wrong. This provision was drafted last year and has been in printed versions of the bill that have been circulating widely in Washington for more than nine months; no one, least of all hyper-vigilant anti-GMO watchdogs, were caught by surprise. For example, Stonyfield Farm, a division of Dannon that makes organic dairy products and is actively engaged in a range of anti-technology agricultural issues, ran a blog post last fall demonizing the provision that its opponents now claim was written behind a veil of secrecy.
The Stonyfield blog post raises the second gross mischaracterization now making the rounds: allegations that the provision would benefit the biotech industry at the expense of consumer health. For example, Russia Today news claims the rider “would strip federal courts of the authority to immediately halt the planting and sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed crop regardless of any consumer health concerns.” This characterization is hokum.
To date, no court has ever held that a biotechnology crop presents a risk to health, safety or the environment. But make no mistake: it’s not because the courts or the government approval process is lax. Just the opposite. Getting approval for any transgenic crop or food is like running a torturous gauntlet, both arduous and bureaucratic, with companies are required to provide years of internal and independent data, which are then carefully reviewed by various government agencies.
Beyond that, the USDA cannot approve a new seed variety until it conducts an Environmental Assessment (EA). This is the point in the process where anti-biotech activists and lawyers do their best to gum up the works in hopes of generating a critical mass of negative public opinion.