Critics have dubbed Section 735 of H.R. 933 the "Monsanto Protection Act" – claiming it leaves biotech giants bulletproof to lawsuits and gives them a fast track to selling new GMO traits without extensive testing or approvals.
Those accusations sound scary, and reading the rider itself is of little help. The provision is literally a 198-word sentence packed with legal jargon that makes it difficult to understand. (You can read it for yourself here – it starts on the bottom of page 34.)
AgWeb editors asked its legal expert, John Dillard, who is agricultural and environmental litigation attorney with OFW Law, for a more clear explanation of what Section 735 might hope to accomplish.
"What it basically says is if USDA approves genetically modified seed or any type of seed, a court cannot later step in and order that the farmer destroy the seed or bar a company from selling the seed," he says.
GMO crops will still undergo years of testing and review before they are allowed regulatory status, and lawsuits can still be brought against biotech companies, Dillard adds. Section 735 is meant to prevent abuses of the court system and allow farmers to recoup their investments in a crop, he says.
In the video below, Dillard discusses a historical precedent that may have inspired the provision.