Food safety advocates are outraged that a measure they say protects the business interests of Monsanto, the largest producer of genetically modified crops, was slipped into a temporary spending bill signed into law Tuesday to avert a government shutdown.
The provision would strip federal courts of the power to halt the planting, harvest and sale of a genetically modified crop if a judge orders a review of its health or environmental concerns, news reports say.
It authorizes the United States Department of Agriculture to grant temporary permission for such crops to be planted and sold while that assessment is being conducted.
Advocates, who have dubbed the measure the "Monsanto Protection Act," say it was added into the bill without a review by committees.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who said he worked with Monsanto to craft the language in the bill, defended it. "What it says is if you plant a crop that is legal to plant when you plant it, you get to harvest it," he told Politico.
The Center for Food Safety, a Washington-based nonprofit, called the Monsanto measure "corporate welfare" and a backroom deal.
Though it would only remain in effect for six months, the life of the spending bill, activists fear it sets a precedent.