Despite the overwhelming public support for GMO labeling legislation, the Monsanto Protection Act threatened to let biotechnology and agribusiness giants like Dow Chemical and Monsanto to continue to enjoy immunity from lawsuits regarding GMOs. Fortunately, the act didn't survive-- but what crushed the Monsanto Protection Act?
The act itself originally slipped through quietly because it was attached to another piece of legislation. In the beginning of this September, House Republicans released a continuing resolution that included an extension of the act. If it had passed, it would have allowed GMOs to be freely cultivated and sold despite their potential risks to public health, the environment, and adjacent farms that grew non-GMO crops. That means that even if evidence is found inextricably linking GMOs to chronic health problems, or environmental or economic damages, the USDA would be forced to allow them to continue to be planted, sold, and used.
If that sounds scary, it should. Fortunately, the measure met with enough opposition that it was axed from the Senate spending bill. Opponents of the act, like Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, led online petitions to give a voice to the members of the public that similarly opposed the bill. While initial attempts to kill the Monsanto Protection Act were unsuccessful, legislators have chosen to ensure that it will finally expire at the end of the month.
Arguments against the act indicate that there is evidence that the transgenic proteins in GMOs have been found in human blood cells (including the cells of pregnant women and their fetuses), and they may be responsible for allergies, organ damage, and other health problems. Other arguments implicate GMO crops in things like bee die-offs and the growth of "superweeds." Therefore, they feel that GMOs should not be given carte blanche to be grown and sold. Arguments in favor of GMOs claim that there is not enough evidence that GMOs cause harm, and legislation limiting their use is "antiscience."
Regardless of whether GMOs are harmful, it's never good to give someone immunity from the law. Hopefully, this push to limit Monsanto's immunity will herald success for things like GMO labeling legislation, and increased research into the long-term harm to humans and the environment from transgenic proteins.