Imagine a democratic government adopting a legislation that would instruct its own Department of Agriculture “to ignore any judicial rulings that block the planting of crops that the court determines to be illegal”(according to Senator Jon Tester D-MT).
In essence, this is what the US Congress has done by adopting a small clause (Section 735) inside the 2013 agricultural budget.
The signing by President Obama of this legislation will effectively bar US federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops even if they failed to be approved by the government’s own weak approval process, no matter what the health or environmental consequences.
Groups have rightly called this legislation the ‘Monsanto Protection Act‘ as it enables Monsanto and other companies to continue to sell GE seeds even when declared illegal by the courts.
The Center for Food Safety (an independent US NGO) has qualified this as being akin to ‘corporate welfare‘ for Monsanto and other biotech companies.
In theory and in a democratic system, the justice system should serve as a watchdog to force everyone – including government agencies – to follow the laws adopted by the legislators. Apparently, not any longer!
The adoption of the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ has generated public outrage and will probably strengthen the resolve of the growing food movement in the US to oppose the power of the food corporations.
This should also be a reminder to all of us across the world of the ability of some corporations like Monsanto to influence policymakers to adopt measures that are against sustainable agriculture, farmers, consumers and the environment. And let’s now add to this list: independent judicial review! A very sad day for democracy and the future of our food.
Eric Darier is a senior campaigner on sustainable agriculture at Greenpeace International