Activist group Food Democracy Now! Friday renewed a push to remove policy langage in HR 933 that protects farmers' rights to market crops even if they are deregulated by the USDA during the course of a growing season.
The language appears in Section 735 of the FY Ag Appropriations bill, part of the Senate- and House-passed Continuing Resolution to keep the government operating through the rest of the fiscal year.
The so-called "biotech rider," the group says, explicitly grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to override a judicial ruling stopping the planting of a genetically modified crop.
When the language was first introduced in the appropriations bill last summer, activist groups sent a letter to Committee on Appropriations calling for its elimination, saying it simply allows farmers to grow crops under legal scrutiny.
Officially, as written in the bill text, the provision allows continued plant "cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities … in the interim period necessary for the Secretary of Agriculture to complete any required analyses or consultations related to the petition for non-regulated status."
Danielle Stuart, spokesperson for Monsanto, said last summer during the initial discussion on the provision that it "provides an assurance for farmers growing crops which have completed the U.S. regulatory review process that their harvest won't be jeopardized by subsequent legal disputes."
Activist groups, however, say it acts simply as a "blank check" for companies like Monsanto that offer biotech products.
"Americans are outraged that Congress has once again brokered a backroom deal that undermines our basic democratic rights to favor irresponsible chemical and biotech seed companies," said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!
"Passing the Monsanto Protection Act is the last straw for millions of Americans who are tired of being betrayed by their elected officials," Murphy added. "We're calling on President Obama to stand up for family farmers and the Constitution and veto the Monsanto Protection Act."
Food Democracy Now! says it has more than 100,000 signatures on a petition opposing Section 733.
The bill passed the Senate Thursday by a vote of 73-26 and the House Friday by a vote of 318-109.The bill now moves to the President's desk for his signature.