Monsanto and Other GE Companies Hitch a Ride on Must Pass Budget Bill
By Patty Lovera
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
If there is one thing you can count on with this Congress, it’s drama over money. The month of March has seen plenty of funding fights, with sequestration in the beginning of the month and an ugly process to prevent a federal government shutdown at the end.
One of the many problems with operating this way is how many opportunities for mischief are available when Congress is dealing with a huge package of “must pass” legislation. That’s exactly what happened last week when Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government for the rest of the year (the President signed it into law this week). This continuing resolution was necessary because Congress did not complete the normal process for setting budgets for federal agencies and the government has been running on an extension of the previous year’s budget that was about to run out.
Besides keeping the government open, the continuing resolution also contained two terrible riders that do more than set funding levels, they also change how U.S. Department Agriculture operates (USDA). The first stops USDA from enforcing contract fairness rules for contract poultry growers, allowing big chicken companies to continue to treat them unfairly. Food & Water Watch and hundreds of farm groups worked to include these vital provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill to protect farmers from unfair and deceptive practices by meatpacking and poultry companies.
The other rider is a giveaway to genetically engineered (GE) seed companies that allows the continued planting of genetically engineered crops even when a court finds they were approved illegally. This provision unnecessarily interferes with the judicial review process and picked up the well-deserved nickname of the “Monsanto Protection Act” because it weakens the already inadequate review process for GE crops. And it isn’t a new idea—you may remember attempts last year to include this measure and two more that would have essentially created a fast track approval process for GE crops in the Farm Bill and in USDA’s budget.
Thankfully, the rider in the continuing resolution doesn’t include the other two provisions that create the fast track approval process. But it’s still terrible news that the biotech industry can convince members of Congress who should know better, like Senator Mikulski (D-MD) who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, to include any bad language like this in a must pass bill.
There were some Senators who wanted to remove these two bad provisions. But the heavy-handed and undemocratic process used to force the Senate to accept the deeply flawed bill didn’t allow votes on amendments by Senator Tester (D-MT) that would have removed these bad riders.
So after this poor showing by Congress, what’s next? For the next six months, USDA will operate under the policy set by the continuing resolution—not enforcing the contract fairness rules and with limited review by the courts over the GE crop approval process.
But by Oct. 1, Congress has to pass new bills to fund federal agencies for fiscal year 2014. And we need to tell them to make sure these two bad policies aren’t in next year’s version.
Visit EcoWatch’s GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM page for more related news on this topic.
California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.
High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.
Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.
California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.
As reported by AccuWeather:
In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.
For a deeper dive:
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- 10 Wildfires Ignite Around Los Angeles in Unseasonable Wind and ... ›
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By Monir Ghaedi
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.
European satellites continue to provide data on climate change.