Washington, D.C.—When President Obama signed the latest budget appropriations bill at the end of March, ensuring that the government would be funded through the end of fiscal year 2013, section 735 of that bill became law. Many sought to stop this 22-line provision, dubbed the “biotech rider” by opponents, on the grounds that it removes judicial authority over the planting of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Opponents also call it the “Monsanto Protection Act,” and say it mandates that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allow GM crops, such as those sold by Monsanto, to continue to be planted and harvested, even if courts or the USDA are reviewing their environmental impact.

Now, the state legislature of Oregon has introduced a bill that appears inspired by section 735. It states that no “local government” within the state is permitted to regulate the planting or harvest of any type of agricultural seed. Although the bill reserves the right of the state to make such regulations, opponents see this as an affirmation of the authority of section 735 of the federal bill.

Those that supported section 735 described it as the Farmer Assurance Provision, citing the fact that it would protect farmers who have already planted GM crops from not being allowed to harvest them, should the regulatory status of that specific crop be brought before a court or be brought back under review by the Secretary of Agriculture. But opponents claim the provision ensures companies like Monsanto will continue to profit from the sale of specific GM seeds even while they undergo an environmental review, as crops like GM alfalfa and sugar beet have in the past.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, June 2013