Imagine a democratic government adopting legislation that would instruct its own Agriculture Department ‘to ignore any judicial rulings that block the planting of crops that the court determines to be illegal’ (according to Senator Jon Tester from Montana). In essence, this is what the US Congress has done by adopting a small clause (Section 735) inside the 2013 agriculture budget.
The signing of this legislation by President Obama 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 and no matter what the health or environmental consequences might be.
Groups have rightly called this legislation ‘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 rider as being ‘corporate welfare’ for Monsanto and other biotech companies.
In a democratic system, the justice system should act as a watchdog to ensure that everyone - including government agencies - follows the laws adopted by the legislators but they are not fulfilling this important role here.
The adoption of the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ generated public outrage but will probably strengthen the resolve of the growing food movement in the US to oppose the power of the food corporations. It should also be a reminder to all of us across the world that some corporations like Monsanto have the ability to influence policy-makers in adopting measures that are against sustainable agriculture, farmers, consumers and the environment. And let’s add now to this list: independent judicial review is critical in avoiding this. This is a sad day for democracy and the future of our food.