ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – When the U.S. Senate last month approved an Agricultural Appropriations Bill to fund the government in the face of looming sequestration cuts, included within the bill was a rider which protects genetically modified seeds from lawsuits concerning health risks posed by the crops.
The provision, tucked away in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, was passed without review by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees and quickly termed the “Monsanto Protection Act” by detractors. Both Missouri senators – Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill – voted for the bill and President Obama signed it into law on March 26.
As news of the rider’s passage spread, opponents targeted Congressional leaders such as Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chairwoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, for not giving the provision a proper hearing.
But since then, Politico has cited Blunt (R-MO), the ranking Republican on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, as the rider’s chief advocate. Blunt told the online publication he even worked with Monsanto to craft the bill.
“What it says is if you plant a crop that is legal to plant when you plant it, you get to harvest it,” Blunt said. “But it is only a one year protection in that bill.”
According to OpenSecrets, Monsanto’s contributions to Blunt began in 2008 when the company gave the then-Representative $10,000. Two years later, when Blunt ran for the U.S. Senate, the annual amount was upped to $44,250. Last year, the payments increased yet again to $64,250. During his 2010 Senate run, agricultural PACs in total gave Blunt over $243,000, documents reveal.
The provision on genetically modified crops also isn’t Blunt’s first use of so-called riders. In 2003, the then-Rep. Blunt was criticized for inserting a pro-Philip Morris provision into a 475-page Homeland Security bill, according to the Washington Post.
Calls to Sen. Blunt’s office Thursday were not returned. While the senator’s website notes that he “played a vital role in writing the fiscal year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill,” it doesn’t mention the provision regarding genetically modified crops.
A Monsanto spokeswoman told Bloomberg News that the bill strikes “a careful balance allowing farmers to continue to plant and cultivate their crops subject to appropriate environmental safeguards.”