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Merkley Takes Stand Against Monsanto

Oregon’s Sen. Jeff Merkley has joined the march against Monsanto, in the U.S. Senate anyway. While Eugeneans plan their May 25 rally against chemical giant Monsanto here in Lane County, Merkley has taken a stand against loopholes and secret provisions aiding the biotech company in Congress. He has introduced an amendment to the Senate farm bill that would override a provision that has become known as the Monsanto Protection Act.

According to Merkley’s office, the rider requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture “to grant a temporary permit to any farmer, upon request, to plant genetically modified crops, even if the crop was found to be potentially harmful by a court.” The statement says that the provision, known informally as a rider, “explicitly grants the USDA the authority to override a judicial ruling stopping the planting of a GMO.”

Monsanto is known for its Roundup herbicides as well as its Roundup resistant seeds and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Oregon farmers have been concerned about the possibility of pollen from GMO crops contaminating organic seeds, as well as with the possibility of Monsanto suing farmers whose fields are contaminated with the company’s patented seeds.

Eugene-based Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) sent out an alert about the Monsanto Protection Act, also known as the biotech rider, calling it “an outrageous new loophole” and asking for support for Merkley in making his amendment.  

Josh Vincent of NCAP says, “It was outrageous for Congress to grant the GMO industry immunity from judicial review, especially given how little we know about the impacts of GMOs, which is a pesticide-driven technology, and how far reaching the impacts of that technology might be.” Vincent adds, “Thankfully, the outcry around this issue has been loud enough to grab the attention of policy makers, and it seems like they are taking it seriously.”

Merkley spokesperson Courtney Warner Crowell says, “For Sen. Merkley, the bottom line is about protecting our farmers, the environment and public health.” She continues, “He believes that when courts call safety into question, it’s outrageous that a secret provision can override those court decisions.”

Warner Crowell says that after the provision was signed into law, Merkley held a series of town halls across Oregon “where he heard from Oregonians of all stripes about their concerns related to this provision.” 

Eugene’s March Against Monsanto is 11 am Saturday, May 25, at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza; http://wkly.ws/1g9.