An Oregon senator has introduced an amendment to the U.S. Senate farm bill to repeal a biotech rider previously attached to a spending bill.

In a statement released May 20, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., characterized the rider as the "Monsanto Protection Act," as "an outrageous example of a special-interest loophole."

The rider, known officially as the Farmer Assurance Provision, allows farmers under partial deregulation to plant genetically engineered crops in cases where courts have overturned USDA approval of the crops.

The scenario occurred with genetically engineered alfalfa and sugar beets in recent years, two crops with the Monsanto "Roundup Ready" gene.

The rider was inserted to protect farmers who make planting decisions based on a USDA deregulation of a crop, only to have a court overturn the deregulation, said Karen Batra, communications director for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The rider, which is in effect until the spending bill lapses in September, stipulates the USDA "shall" issue permits or a partial deregulation order that would temporarily allow farmers to continue growing and selling the crop until USDA completes a re-evaluation of its environmental effects.

"This provision nullifies the actions of a court that is enforcing the law to protect farmers, the environment and public health," Merkley said in a prepared statement. "That is unacceptable."

The amendment would repeal the rider in its entirety.

--Mitch Lies

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