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Published October 28, 2013, 10:41 AM

Mont. senator cuts pro-GMO bill

The measure had been part of the bill that ended the shutdown.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., recently received praise from organic producers and others for removing the Monsanto Protection Act from a bill that ended the government shutdown Oct. 16.

The law, formally the Farmer Assurance Provision, had been inserted into bills since March. It is designed to prevent federal courts from banning the planting of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops such as corn, sugar beets and soybeans. These crops already have GMOs, mostly to make the crops resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) or to certain pests.

Ryan McCormick, president of the Montana Grain Growers Association, and a farmer from Kremlin, Mont., says his group has a position in favor of biotech solutions to insert drought resistance and other traits into wheat.

“I think GMOs are the future of agriculture and the direction we’re heading if we’re going to feed the world with population projections that are coming. I think companies like Monsanto have to have the expectation of a real return so they can continue to do research.”

McCormick says the grain growers have been “at odds with Sen. Tester on the GM industry from the beginning,” but work with him on other matters. “Opposing views are part of the game politically,” he says.

On the other hand, Billings, Mont.-based Northern Plains Resource Council members say removing the provision protects organics and others who don’t want to use GMOs, or don’t want to be sued if their crops unintentionally pick up traits through pollination or other means.

Tester, who farms near Big Sandy, Mont., says the act prevented the U.S. Department of Agriculture from dealing with legitimate GMO concerns. Many European and Asian markets don’t disallow GMO foods. Tester says the bill assured a “lack of corporate liability” and “lets genetically modified crops take hold across the country — even when a judge finds it violates the law.

“Stripping out the Monsanto Protection Act is a victory for American consumers and family farm agriculture,” Tester says. “I’m pleased that Congress stood up for accountability and transparency and against special interests. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to make sure that this damaging provision never again makes it into law.”

The provision had been promoted by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. St. Louis, Mo., is the headquarters for Monsanto Co., one of the nation’s most important agricultural technology companies and inventor of Roundup Ready (glyphosate- resistant) crops.