Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Biotech and D.C. Lobbyists

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: After reading about the Biotech Riders proposed for the new farm bill, you might wonder why any of our public servants—namely the House and Senate Ag Committees—would vote to send it on to the full body for a vote. Especially with such horrible health implications, suggested at such a high public cost. If 2,4D corn and soybeans are approved, for example, we’ll have an epidemic of Parkinson’s Disease similar to the epidemic among soldiers that came home from Vietnam after handling the stuff. In that case, it was part of the war effort, sprayed to defoliate the jungles so Americans could see where the VietCong were hiding. But if farmers start using it on fields, it will be used to kill American weeds, get into American water, sicken American farmers. But I digress. The answer to the question, “why would anyone vote for the Biotech Riders?” is “Lobbying.” According to Sourcewatch, the biotech companies have paid big bundles to get these riders into the farm bill. And that lobbying started back in 2009, just after the last farm bill was passed. The lobbyist, says Sourcewatch, was Stanley H. Abramson. Monsanto then started its own lobbyist firm and ramped up efforts in 2011. Sourcewatch says, “On its in house lobbying reports for the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2011, Monsanto reports lobbying on "Biotech Regulations, Roundup Ready Alfalfa, Roundup Ready Sugarbeets, Plant Protection Act" to the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, U.S. State Department, and the U.S. Trade Representative. The amounts spent on lobbying by Monsanto for those quarters were $1,710,000, $2,010,000, and $1,210,000, respectively. Monsanto also paid Russell and Baron, Inc./The Russell Group, Inc. $60,000 during each of the three quarters for lobbying on "Biotech Acceptance; Agriculture, Competition, and Related Issues; Advocacy for Plant Protection Act concerns" to the House, Senate, and USDA.” So, see, if you can spend that kind of dough, you can get most anything done. But, as 2011 waned, Monsanto got new help. Dow Chemical started to kick in, and there might have been a few bucks spent by the Farm Bureau, that urban insurance company, just trying to wave the flag. And, says Sourcewatch, the benign-sounding American Nursery and Landscape Association paid lobbyists “for lobbying on plant protection issues in the farm bill.” In 2012, the spending got more intense, of course, as public servants started to actually work on the bill, with millions going into somebody’s pockets. You might wonder why they ramped up the fight. Time’s Winged Chariot drawing near, as the poet says, and Farmers in Tractors catching on. Farmers are trying to get away from the corporate seed loop, see, and turning to other ways to farm. Some farmers are even trying to figure out how to win in court over corporate breach of promise. What was the promise? We’ll look at that tomorrow!

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