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Roy Blunt Keeps Fighting the Not-So-Good Fight for Monsanto

Perhaps you've read about Senator Roy Blunt's giveaway to Monsanto. The Missouri Republican slipped a last minute rider into totally unrelated legislation — the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act 2013 — which "compels the USDA to ignore federal court decisions that block the agency's approvals of new GM crops." The amendment was a rich gift to Monsanto which has been trying to get something like this passed for a long time:

Speedy deregulation of the new-generation herbicide-tolerant crops is important for a simple reason: Monsanto's blockbuster Roundup Ready technology — featuring corn, soy, cotton, sugar beet, and alfalfa (hay) seeds engineered to resist Monsanto's Roundup herbicide — is failing. Roundup-resistant superweeds are galloping out of control throughout big-farm country. The industry's only solution to the problem is to roll out seeds resistant to multiple herbicides at once, adding old, toxic ones like 2,4-D and dicamba to the Roundup mix. [...]  the strategy will work brilliantly to sell more herbicides and burnish the bottom lines of the Big 6, but it will only put off a reckoning with the problem of resistant weeds while simultaneously harming the environment.

In an effort to undo Blunt's chicanery, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkeley tried to amend the Farm Bill last Thursday to repeal Blunt's "Monsanto Protection Act," as it is popularly known. The amendment was blocked by GOP Senators led by — guess who? — Roy Blunt, who has been dubbed by Mother Jones as "Monsanto's man in Washington." Nevertheless, in defending the amendment, Blunt, the consummate Washington insider, adopted his best aw shucks demeanor and pretended to be the farmer's best friend:

Earlier on Thursday, in an interview with The Huffington Post, Blunt said that the point of the provision was to protect farmers who had already purchased seeds that were later deemed unsafe. "I was raised — my mom and dad were dairy farmers. Once you've made a decision to plant a crop for that year, you can't go back and undo that decision," he said.

Requiring Monsanto or other seed companies to compensate those farmers for lost income wasn't a viable strategy either, the senator said, if the seeds had previously been permissible. "You can't sue them for selling a crop that the federal government said is OK to plant," he said.

Sounds good,right? But then why try to sneak the legislation through Congress with no review or debate? Perhaps because, as Blunt admits, he wrote the amendment at the behest of and jointly with Monsanto, whose concern for farmers' welfare is not exactly overwhelming when it's a matter of the corporate bottomline:

Monsanto's alleged "concern" for farmers has its limits. GMO seeds often end up in the fields of unsuspecting farmers who planted crops using traditional seeds. Inevitably, Monsanto's "seed police" turn up at their doors armed with lawsuits claiming seed patent violations. The farmers are prohibited from recycling their own seeds and forced to pay hefty fines to Monsanto for having GMO crops they never planted in their fields.

Farmers buying Monsanto patented seeds must agree not to save the seeds for replanting or to sell seeds to other farmers. Each year farmers are forced to buy new seeds and more Roundup weed killer from Monsanto. Traditional seeds are disappearing. In the 1990s, pesticide manufacturers purchased seed companies, anticipating potential profits from monopolizing both aspects of farm production . . .

Blunt also claims that the rider he is fighting so valiantly to defend does nothing. That's right — he claims that the USDA already has the authority to do what this bill specifies that it must do. Of course, there is, as Senator Merkley has noted, a difference between being able to so something on an as-needed basis and being compelled to do it in all instances, regardless of the merits — but that's perhaps just a little too subtle for our down home boy, Roy.

What Roy does understand all too well, though, is the old payola:

... According to OpenSecrets, Monsanto first started contributing to Blunt back in 2008, when it handed him $10,000. At that point, Blunt was serving in the House of Representatives. In 2010, when Blunt successfully ran for the Senate, Monsanto upped its contribution to $44,250. And in 2012, the GMO seed/pesticide giant enriched Blunt's campaign war chest by $64,250.

Blunt is also a magnet for PAC money from the agribusiness industry as a whole, OpenSecrets data shows. In 2012, agribiz PACs gave him $51,000-more than any other industry save for finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE). In 2010, the year of his Senate run, agribiz PACs handed him over $243,000, more than any other besides the FIRE and energy industries.

Senator Merkley has promised to continue to try to repeal Blunt's Monsanto Protection Act. It wouldn't hurt if some of us let Senator Blunt, the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, know that we're tired of his business-as-usual attitude towards the folks who want to purchase our government. Call or email him today. Credo Action is offering a script for the phone call if you think it would help you.

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