Debate over Farmer Assurance Provision

The Lempert Report
May 20, 2013

Topline is that the public health and safety are not compromised by these provisions.

A fierce debate is brewing over the Farmer Assurance Provision, which has been dubbed by some, the "Monsanto Protection Act". Some interest groups protest what is officially called, Section 735, a provision within a recently passed Congressional Spending Bill. President Obama signed the bill, including a controversial provision which, those opposing the provisions claim, exempts biotech companies from litigation in regards to the making, selling and distribution of genetically engineered seeds and plants. They claim the legislation may prevent courts from stopping the sale of genetically engineered seeds --- no matter what issues may arise in the future. They contend that we are now powerless in the case of data showing harm to consumers. Those supporting the provision point out that the language doesn’t protect USDA or the biotech companies from litigation related to USDA’s approval. It temporarily protects the farmers who bought and planted the seeds relying on the approval. Supporters also say the provisions don’t prevent anyone from protecting the public health. FDA and EPA’s oversight, remit and mandate are not changed at all. These are seeds the USDA deregulated prior to them being planted that are now, due to a court case, undergoing additional scrutiny. USDA still has authority to stop harvests if they feel there is a risk to human or plant health. The provisions also don’t change any potential liability a technology provider might have. When procedural issues surface about a USDA deregulation, or additional environmental considerations need to be considered, the USDA maintains its flexibility to exercise judgment. The USDA still has the authority to intercede and prevent harvesting and further sales but, in the absence of that need, USDA can let farmers harvest and sell their crops while the issues are fully resolved by the agency and the courts. Topline is that the public health and safety are not compromised by these provisions.