Obama Can’t Fix Congress’ Monsanto Giveaway with an Executive Order

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The “Monsanto Protection Act” (section 735) was attached (anonymously) as a rider to a short term spending bill (HR 933). President Obama signed it into law on March 26th.

Food activists (and generally sane people) are outraged, as they should be. 250,000 voters signed a petition opposing the act and others called for Obama to strike the Monsanto provision (aka, “biotech rider”) from the spending bill.

“Passing the Monsanto Protection Act is the last straw for millions of Americans who are tired of being betrayed by their elected officials,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now! “We’re calling on President Obama to stand up for family farmers and the Constitution and veto the Monsanto Protection Act.”

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The problem is that the President does not have line item veto power; it’s all or nothing. This is called a poison pill. As part of the short term spending bill, President Obama had to sign the resolution in order to prevent the federal government from shutting down today, March 27, when the current funding was set to expire. He doesn’t get to cherry pick what parts he signs into law. He either lets the goverment shut down or he signs the poison pill.

The Monsanto Protection Act is outrageous to anyone who pays attention to our current food safety issues. It essentially temporary deregulates genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to override a judicial ruling stopping the planting of a genetically modified crop, and thus grants temporary permits for farmers to plant and grow genetically modified crops.

Food Democracy Now! issued a statement, “If leadership in Washington, D.C. can betray the public behind closed doors, it’s time that the American public gain the right to transparency about what they are eating and feeding their families every day.”

Transparency regarding our food would be great. It hardly seems like we’re asking for too much on this one. Just tell us what crap you’re putting in the stuff we put into our bodies, so we can make our own choices. It’s telling that the corproate food industry fights so hard against identifying clearly what’s in our food.

Food activists are now calling for the President to issue a signing statement and/or executive order to label our food, “Today we’re calling on President Obama to issue an executive order to call for the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.” A signing statement would have been issued while signing the legislation, and would have claimed that part of the law was unconstitutional. However, it wouldn’t have changed how the law was implemented.

An executive order cannot make new law; only Congress can do that. An executive order tells a President’s administration how he wants a law implemented; it gives direction to officers and agencies of the executive branch. But here’s the real kicker: Even if President Obama were to sign an executive order to label our food (we have no indication as to whether he would be inclined to do so), Congress could deny funding its execution, just as they have with his order to close Gitmo.

When it comes to laws, it always comes back to Congress. Our food safety has been severely compromised by corporate lobbyists’ ever-tightening control over our representatives. If people really want things to change, they need to be able to identify the individuals behind these cowardly acts.

Here’s a hint: Republican Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) takes the most money from pro-GMO PACs in the Senate Appropriations Committee, where this dastardly rider was secretly attached (this time, that is. We have a certain House Republican who tries to attach a similar amendment to almost every bill that touches his greedy fingers). Democratic Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) tried to get the amendment taken out of the spending bill to no avail.

While HR 933 expires in six months, I have little hope that we will see any major changes in food safety while our Congress is controlled by big ag/corporate money. The AP reported on Maplight’s analysis, “Current members of Congress have received $7,450,434 from the PACs of these organizations.”

No matter who is in the White House, Congress controls the purse strings and makes the laws, and they are more than adept at using current crises (manufactured by them, of course) to attach corporate giveaways to big spenders.

This is yet another beyond frustrating poison pill.

People should still protest and sign petitions, because that is the only power the people have to get their voices heard on issues. But our Corporate Congress will continue protecting the profits of their funders until we find a way to stop it.

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