A U.S. Senate committee has removed from a Senate spending bill a controversial clause that would have extended legal protections to companies that develop biotech crops and to farmers who produce and sell them.
The clause, dubbed by opponents the “Monsanto Protection Act,” would have allowed American farmers to continue growing and selling a genetically modified crop while its safety is being challenged in court.
The clause was approved last month by the U.S. House of Representatives and attached as a rider to a bill to fund the U.S. government through Dec. 15. But Maryland senator Barbara Mikulski, chair of the senate appropriations committee, removed the rider Sept. 26, saying there is no reason to have it included in a temporary spending bill.
“I have never supported the Mon-santo provision, and I continue to oppose it,” said Mikulski, a Democrat who also supports mandatory labelling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.
American opponents of GM foods launched a campaign earlier this year to have the provision removed from the spending bill.
A coalition of small farmers, organic food advocates, environmentalists and consumer groups had asked the Senate to remove the clause, citing various concerns including the contamination of non-GM crops.
The temporary provision was originally passed and became law in March, 2013 but was due to expire on Sept. 30.
It allowed for the cultivation and sale of a genetically modified crop variety, even if U.S. Department of Agriculture approvals were overturned by federal courts and additional safety tests ordered.
Farm groups such as the American Soybean Association supported the provision, saying U.S. farmers need an assurance that they will be able to sell the crops they plant and avoid damages caused by prolonged legal challenges related to food safety.
Critics argued the provision would short-circuit court reviews of federal agencies and allow biotech companies to delay processes aimed at determining whether GM crops pose health risks to consumers.
— With files from Reuters