A biotech rider included in spending bill HR 933 and signed by President Obama on Tuesday will require the Agriculture Department to approve the growing, harvesting and selling of genetically modified crops, Fox News reports.
The Monsanto Protection Act has been met by White House protests and no less than two petitions, including one by the group Food Democracy that has garnered more than 250,000 signatures over concerns that back-room deal was struck with food growers at the expense of Americans' health.
Senator John Tester told Politico that the deal with Monsanto, the world's largest producer of genetically modified seeds and crops,will only benefit big corporations.
"These provisions are giveaways, pure and simple, and will be a boon worth millions of dollars to a handful of the biggest corporations in this country," he said.
The National Farmers Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, Stonyfield Farms and Nature's Path also claim to oppose the rider, FN reports.
Critics are blasting Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski in particular, claiming she allowed the rider to be included without conducting a proper hearing first.
Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said the situation is a "hidden backroom deal."
"Sen. Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto," he said. "This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat majority in the Senate."
On Friday, however, Mikulski's office did issue a statement maintaining that the rider was included in the bill in fall 2012, before she became chairwoman.
"Senator Mikulski understands the anger over this provision," the statement reads. "She didn't put the language in the bill and doesn't support it either."
FN points out that back in December 2012 the Stonyfield website seemed to validate Mikulski's claim that the rider was added before her appointment to the committee.
"Even if the courts find that a (genetically engineered) crop shouldn't be planted until more research is done about its safety, no one could stop that crop from being planted, even temporarily," the blog post stated. "This provision clearly tells us that Congress thinks public health and safety should take a back seat to the expansion of GE crops. The good news is it's not too late to tell Congress that this is one holiday surprise we don't need."