With Nation’s Eyes Elsewhere, President Obama Signs Monsanto Protection Act into Law. ~ Kevin Macku

Via elephant journal
on Mar 27, 2013
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Photo: Richard Masoner
Photo: Richard Masoner

Update: And here’s Waylon’s rebuttal, which includes Kevin’s response: Dear Liberals: it’s not “King” Obama’s fault—it’s ours. And also: the facts about the bill in question.

Meanwhile, at the White House…

While we were out changing our Facebook profile photos; while we were listening to every scrap of information from the Supreme Court like it was leaked from the last season of Girls or Downton Abbey; while we talked and debated and de-friended anyone with views opposing our own about gay marriage left after the Chik-fil-A Issue, President Obama signed into law HR 933, including the last minute amendments dubbed “The Monsanto Protection Act.”

In response to the Act’s passing in the House and Senate last week, 250,000 people signed a petition speaking out against Section 735, the eleventh-hour tacked-on provisions made to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill allowing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to overrule judicial rulings which may prevent the planting of a genetically-modified crop, even if that ruling is on a basis of potential health risks from the consumption or use of GMO produce or seeds coming to light.

This one snuck by me. No mention on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, not even the staunchly anti-Obama Fox News. In fact, in doing the research for this article, several of the reports suggest that many of the folks in Congress didn’t know the amendments existed, much less the American electorate. Furthermore, according to Salon, the Agriculture and Judiciary Committees weren’t even given proper time to adequately review the amendments; the implication is that Congress was simply voting to prevent government shutdown. For all we know, that’s just pleading ignorance.

This is not how we should be doing law at the highest level in this country.

I spent several months in college waiting until the last day before a big paper was due before writing it down half-assedly and shooting for a passing grade. I was a theater student; honestly, what did I care about my Astronomy mid-term exam so long as it didn’t wind up failing me? But I’m not paid Congress’s salary. So if I didn’t remember the dude with the silver nose, fine; I wasn’t putting potential health risks on the table by failing to do my job adequately or ethically.

congress dumb badSo the bill only lasts six months, yes, this is true, but we’re setting a dangerous precedent. With its passing in Congress and the President’s signature, our government is effectively saying to big businesses that consumer safety is a non-issue when Congress is on your side. Amid suspicions of corruption and lobbyist influence, this is a recipe for disaster.

And who among us can imagine what Congress is planning those next six months, or if they’ve even begun planning at all? First there was the potential government shutdown in 2011; then the fiscal cliff; then the financial sequester. Six months from now, we’re going to face the same situation yet again, and the media will be given a cute name to call it, and we’ll panic and listen to NPR and cower with our loved ones and fantasize about the absolutely worst-case scenario.

For every major civil liberty victory we achieve, we turn around and see that Wall Street is richer, the environment has taken another hit, we have to take another job or another loan, and how could it get any worse?

How could it get any worse?

There’s no point in fantasizing about it. Stop. It’s talking and dreaming about the worst-case scenario that got us into this mess in the first place.

Instead, share the message. A single presidential term ago, this option was not so widely available the way it is now. The way we fight back against the secrecy of back-room politics is by exposing them. Facebook is a new tool. Between cat videos and singles ads, we can share information faster than ever before.

In under a week, 250,000 signatures were gathered in what has turned out to be a futile attempt to get the President to side with the people instead of big business. But the President has shown that the promise of campaign funds and big business mean more to him than, let’s say, the protection of our children. Now we must call on him to hold up to his promises, the promises upon which we agreed to vote for his serving as our President.

Here is a link from Food Democracy Now allowing you to call upon the President to issue an executive order forcing America to join over 60 other nations in making the labeling of GMOs a mandatory practice.

If you changed your profile picture, you can share an article. If you have the time to tell someone why gay marriage should be changed or remain the same, you have the time to read about what Capitol Hill is doing when you’re not looking. If you have time to watch a clip on Youtube, you have time to sign a petition.

Of course, it’s always an option to do nothing as well, but let’s be honest; how good was that college paper you wrote last-minute, really?

I dare you to do better.

KevinMacku2Kevin Macku is a 20-something fledgeling yogi with a love of words. He is a trained actor who occasionally appears in local movies and on stage. His preferred methods of expression are based in movement: Suzuki’s Training for the Classical Actor, Viewpoints and Butoh to name a few, all of which benefit from the practice of yoga. In the midst of a rigorous physical practice, he discovered he was undergoing a spiritual transformation, and began to document the experience. These entries can be found at http://doafy.posterous.com/. Kevin himself can be reached at [email protected], or you can now “like” his page on Facebook!

~

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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


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Comments

36 Responses to “With Nation’s Eyes Elsewhere, President Obama Signs Monsanto Protection Act into Law. ~ Kevin Macku”

  1. paul says:

    One of my senators sent an email epressing her annoyed relief that the bill passed. I think they are so frustrated with the deadlock (or whatever it actually is), having anything pass is a victory.

    As if the political opposition wasn't enough, legalese makes these bills unintelligible- how familiar is anyone with sections 411-414 of the Plant Protection Act? (and did you know there was such a thing?)
    the text from http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr933/t… :
    Sec. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act is or has been invalidated or vacated, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon request by a farmer, grower, farm operator, or producer, immediately grant temporary permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with section 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements, including measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner: Provided, That all such conditions shall be applicable only for the interim period necessary for the Secretary to complete any required analyses or consultations related to the petition for non-regulated status: Provided further, That nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the Secretary’s authority under section 411, 412 and 414 of the Plant Protection Act.

  2. This is what accompanied my repost: "Just like the NDAA being signed on New Year's Eve, Obama signed a law making food more unsafe yesterday, after receiving 1/4 million signatures against it & while progressives were busy listening to Supreme Court proceedings."

    Kind of fascinating timing, considering how excited many progressives were when Obama came out in support of gay marriage about 9 months ago. I guess standing for safe food doesn't get you as many votes… I said it then and I'll say it now, and keep saying it – until we have public funded elections, there is not one federal politician (ok a maybe besides senators Sanders and Warren) who actually understands the meaning of and operates as public servants – and has our backs.

  3. meredithelise says:

    I agree with commenter Paul above. Having *any* bill actually go through must be a relief to lawmakers.

    And in many ways, this is just business as usual. Just watch "Food, Inc." for a primer on Monsanto's history of cozy government ties. The goop in HR 933 is nothing surprising, and I think it's easy to feel powerless as a consumer. You can sign your name on a petition, call your lawmakers, and try to speak with your dollars by buying organic. But then bills like this still get passed.

    But, what you've pointed out here is really interesting, Kevin. "If you changed your profile picture, you can share an article." Over the last several days, people HAVE been standing up (albeit mostly on facebook) for something they believe in. Congress may be operating "as usual," but I'd really, really like to believe that citizens AREN'T anymore. Some folks really are paying attention. As you said, our online media are tools, and maybe they can make activism easier for people, faster, and potentially more powerful.

    Here's hoping.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I always wonder, when these articles are written, how many naysayers and advocates for "safe food" actually understand the science they so vigorously protest. Having no data to confirm, I'm going to guess less than half truly understand what a GMO is, how its made and what implications it truly holds for human health when consumed. I really think there ought to be a requirement that you know those things before you spew. Monsanto may or may not be "Monsatan" (very clever, that one), but the technology is not and deserves a bit more of a chance than folks tend to give it.

  5. Or maybe it's not what we think it is. Any legal scholars here? I haven't seen any comment on this bill at all yet, and I'm not convinced there is a "Monsanto Protection Act" in the bill.

    The bill was HR 933. It looks to be just about budgets: govtrack.us /congress/bills/113/hr933/text

    I'm not sure what the big deal is here.

    Section 735 is supposedly the rider that Sen Blunt from Missouri wrote with help from his buddies at Monsanto:

    "Sec. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act is or has been invalidated or vacated, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon request by a farmer, grower, farm operator, or producer, immediately grant temporary permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with section 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements, including measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner: Provided, That all such conditions shall be applicable only for the interim period necessary for the Secretary to complete any required analyses or consultations related to the petition for non-regulated status: Provided further, That nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the Secretary’s authority under section 411, 412 and 414 of the Plant Protection Act."

    I'm pretty sure this is the offending section. The rest of the document appears to be about budgets.

    My reading is that this section gives authority to the Secretary of Agriculture to give temporary permits for GMO crops if they want, not that Monsanto is protected from legal action. But again, I'm no legal scholar.

    This also makes me wonder in general about hysteria people have about laws and government, immediately jumping to conclusions about corruption and malice and the world going to hell in a handbasket.

    Is this corruption? I can't easily tell. It might be, but it might not be. Or it might be a sign of corruption, but it might be ineffective. Or it might be something else entirely.

    The fact is, these laws are really complex and even difficult to find the full text of in Google, let alone interpret the implications of without a deep understanding of federal law, which I certainly don't have.

    It also makes me have a lot of sympathy for Obama signing bills into laws. 99.9% of this bill is about budgets. It simply has to pass. And this section doesn't seem to imply any special harm at least to me in a quick reading. So of course he's going to sign the bill into law. If he vetoed every paragraph that might possibly be an abuse of power, no bills would ever get passed and our whole government would come to a screeching halt. I suspect he was briefed for less than 10 minutes on the whole thing.

    I'm no fan of Monsanto, but I'm also no fan of hysteria about things which might not be a big deal.

  6. Anon says:

    Bullshit they did not know the rider was in the bill — bullshit

  7. Anon says:

    Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri helped write the rider and another Senator submitted an ammendment to take the rider out http://intellihub.com/2013/03/28/surprised-monsan

  8. Carol says:

    A section about agricultural policy DID NOT belong in this appropriations bill. Why was it put there?

  9. Howie says:

    Because it never would have stood on its own merits.

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