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Rider on budget deal enrages anti GMO-forces

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A lot of food industry people were relieved that the U.S. Senate came to terms with a budget resolution that would prevent some damage from sequestration. 

Among other things, the continuing resolution appeared to salvage federal food safety inspections from budget cuts to be imposed next week. 

Environmentalists, progressives and safe-food activists, however, are enraged at a couple of riders that moved into the resolution from earlier versions of the budget.  

One -- called the biotech rider -- would require the Department of Agriculture to approve the harvest and sale of crops from genetically modified seed even if there is a court order saying the environmental studies on the crop were inadequate. Federal courts have in the past intervened to say the USDA failed to adequately review genetically modified seed for alfalfa and sugar beets. 

Another provision would rescind two of the provisions of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration regulations that provide transparency, disclosure and investment protections for poultry farmers in their contracts with poultry companies.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., tried to overturn both on the Senate floor but was unsuccessful. He was joined by fellow Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

The genetics provision stuck in more than one craw. 

"The 'Monsanto Rider' (section 735) uses 'farmer-friendly' happy talk, but is an iron-fisted ploy to allow GMO crops to be planted even if a court has ruled that planting them is illegal," wrote OpEdNews.com, which describes itself as Progressive, Tough, Liberal. 

Food and Water Watch objected, too.

The advocacy organization for safe food said Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Ranking Member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., "abdicated their responsibility by offering a stale spending bill from last year that is loaded with special legislative giveaways to big agribusiness companies. The heavy-handed and undemocratic process used to force the Senate to accept a deeply flawed proposal allowed votes on only nine amendments."

"(The genetics) provision undermines USDA's oversight of (genetically engineered) crops and unnecessarily interferes with the judicial review process," Food and Water Watch said. "This favor to the biotech industry was not included in the House-passed continuing resolution and should never have been included in the Senate version."

The organization also praised the resolution for apparently resolving the conflict that would have suspended federal meat inspections. 

Reach Richard Piersol at 402-473-7241 or dpiersol@journalstar.com.

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