* Rider is contained in short-term spending bill
* Consumer groups decry "corporate earmark"
* Opponents ask Senate to strip out GM rider
WASHINGTON, Sept 20 The U.S. House of
Representatives on Friday approved an extension of a law
allowing farmers to keep growing a genetically modified crop
while it is being challenged in court, a move critics said
overrode actions to prevent contamination of non-GMO crops.
The extension, dubbed by critics the "Monsanto Protection
Act" in reference to the agricultural biotechnology giant
, would prolong the law scheduled to expire at the end of
this month. The measure is contained in a 22-line rider to a
stopgap bill to fund the government through Dec. 15.
Should the rider pass the Senate, it would keep the law
alive for 11 weeks more. A coalition of small-farm, organic
food, environmental and consumer groups asked the Senate to
strip out the language from the bill.
The rider allows the cultivation and sale of a genetically
modified (GM) plant variety to go ahead even if a federal judge
overturns Agriculture Department approval of the variety and
directs USDA to conduct more studies on whether the plant is
safe to release.
Critics say the provision short-circuits court review of
federal agencies. They cited the discovery early this year of
unauthorized genetically modified wheat in Oregon showed the
damage that could occur if there was a runaway GM crop.
Farm groups such as the American Soybean Association
supported the provision, which appeared in March, as a way for
farmers to have confidence that if they plant a crop, they will
be able to sell it and not become collateral damage in lengthy
The $7 billion U.S. wheat export market was roiled for weeks
by the Oregon case, the origins of which have never been fully
"The American people deserve better than dirty politics, yet
the Republican leadership continues to side with the
agrichemical companies that the rider seeks to protect," said
Colin O'Neil, director of government affairs for Center for Food
Safety, which opposes GM crops.
No lawmaker has claimed authorship of the rider, also known
as Section 735, which appeared as part of a bill to fund many
government departments through Sept. 30. A Senate staff worker
said the provision was an unavoidable carry-over from
House-Senate negotiations last fall.
Environmentalists often ask for a temporary injunction when
they challenge U.S. approval of GM crops, so Section 735 would
benefit other biotech seed companies such as Monsanto and Dow