November 10, 1999
Amendment No. 2359 to the Trade Act of 1974
Attached to HR 434 ( Africa Trade and Development)
Not as if I had little to occupy myself with on a Sunday morning, but, like
my grandfather intending to go out to the garage and bundle newspapers to be
thrown out and then instead re-reading the news from ten years past, I
tripped through the old biotechnology email intending to do some mighty
deleting and ended up reading or re-reading so much of it that little of the
original task was completed. It is becoming quite a history. Project
With such a crush of info, I didn't get very far. Neither did my grandfather.. So much to revel in , rave over and remember. Click, read. Click, read…
" Who were the brave forty-eight congressional representatives who merged together to request the labeling of GMO foods?" I wondered, as I called up the house dot gov site. Nothing new there.
" Now, why in the hell doesn't Kucinich have a website?" I muttered, submitting myself to a " biotech, labeling, resolution, November" search on the old reliable, thomas government locator.
Nope, No Kucinich.
Well, at least two pieces of legislation were retrieved with my keywords.
" Now what's up with this?" I said, noting that Chuck Grassley ( Iowa Republican Senator) and Kent Conrad ( Senate Democrat from North Dakota) have created a measure known as Amendment 2359 revising the federal Trade Act of 1974. Its one of the things they want to tack on to HR 434, which is otherwise referred to as the NAFTA for Africa Act.
Senators Grassley and Conrad appear to have authored legislation meant to bail out a beleaguered farm sector, and in so doing have buried some choice verbiage designed to shore up agbiotech.
When reading these things, its not what they said but what they said by not saying it.
With a tired touch to the keyboard, Controller-F, and a " biotechnology" search, way, way down at the end of the Act I run into:
(4) insisting that the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Accord agreed to in the Uruguay Round applies to new technologies, including biotechnology, and clarifying that labeling requirements to allow consumers to make choices regarding biotechnology products or other regulatory requirements cannot be used as disguised barriers to trade;..."
Sounds like somebody is steamed.
However, this buried advisory to the WTO negotiating team representing the United States was not what really attracted my attention, because a very cleverly worded portion of the preceding language suggests that the US Congress may vote to cover market losses associated with the split market of conventional and biotech crops. See for yourself and turn it over in your mind for a moment:
...." Payment of a trade adjustment allowance shall be made to an adversely affected agricultural commodity producer ….( due to) increases in imports of articles like or directly competitive with the agricultural commodity, or a class of goods within the agricultural commodity, produced by the group (which) contributed importantly to the decline in price for that commodity...."
A "class of goods"? What 2359 creates is a five-year price average and authorizes payments to farmers who have produced a "class of goods" that contributed to poor prices. Now what on earth could that be other than GMO corn you can't ship, or which is priced lower than what Archer Daniels Midland is paying for the non-GMO product? By going back five years they get to use that five dollar per bushel corn price from 1996. Thanks, Chuck. But what about the WTO? Are you sure about this timing? Maybe we have been reading from the same cup of tea leaves: WTO: Not Good to Go?
This congressional buttress will be nothing less than a direct subsidy to Monsanto. No wonder their stock is on a rip. It assures that come hell or high water the GMO crops will be paid for just as if they were Vinton 81 soybeans or any other non-GMO product. Now, Chuck, don't that shoot holes in your " substantial equivalency" mumbo-jumbo? How can you have a Class of Goods within the same commodity?
Perhaps what is most curious is that amid all the talk about doing away with the Blue Box provisions of the Uruguay Round these people refuse to see that the little safety net of producer protection safeguarded for some countries is nothing when compared to the gargantuan private-public subsidies authorized and/or promoted by the US government to assure our own dominion in international agricultural trade. How is the State Department justifying their sudden investment of energy in defending agbiotech? Discretionary spending?
Instead of insisting on new language ( Precautionary Principle) we can merely use the old language as rope enough to hang the transnationals. Make them defend current policy first before asking that the Blue Box is expanded or amended or even discussed. They are stuck in the very straits they once begged to navigate through.
How can lawmakers be so blind as to remind us of subsidy disallowances in the WTO and in the same piece of legislation authorize another subsidy for "a class of goods" produced domestically? This is law which will do more for Monsanto than the folks down by the banks of the Wapsipinicon, of that you can be sure.
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Last Updated on 11/10/99
By Karen Lutz