The "Act" is actually the Section 735 of H.R. 933 "Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013" which enables the US government to fund itself without passing any budget until the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2013):
Sec. 735. In the event that a determination of non-regulated status made pursuant to section 411 of the Plant Protection Act is or has been invalidated or vacated, the Secretary of Agriculture shall, notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon request by a farmer, grower, farm operator, or producer, immediately grant temporary permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with section 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements, including measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner: Provided, That all such conditions shall be applicable only for the interim period necessary for the Secretary to complete any required analyses or consultations related to the petition for non-regulated status: Provided further, That nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the Secretary’s authority under section 411, 412 and 414 of the Plant Protection Act.
As CBS News (3/28/2013) puts it:
Critics slam Obama for "protecting" Monsanto
There's no love lost between Washington and the American public, it seems, five days after Congress for the first time in years managed to handle a budget-related issue without reaching the brink of crisis.
Protesters have descended on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House this week, enraged at a potentially health-hazardous provision they allege lawmakers inserted surreptitiously into a continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year. The bill sailed through the Capitol on Friday; President Obama signed it into law on Tuesday.
Opponents have termed the language in question the "Monsanto Protection Act," a nod to the major agricultural biotech corporation and other like firms geared at producing genetically modified organisms (GMO) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops. The provision protects genetically modified seeds from litigation suits over health risks posed by the crops' consumption.
Food safety advocacy groups like Food Democracy Now, which collected more than 250,000 signatures on a petition calling for the president to veto the CR, argue not enough studies have been conducted into the possible health risks of GMO and GE seeds. Eliminating judicial power to halt the selling or planting of them essentially cuts off their course to ensuring consumer safety should health risks emerge.
Seeking a "balance" to the newly minted law, Food Democracy Now has shifted its tactics to encouraging supporters to sign and send letters to Mr. Obama, chiding him for signing the legislation despite that refusal to do so would have expired the federal budget and triggered a government-wide shutdown this week.
Part of the template for the letter reads: "In an effort to balance this violation of our basic rights, I am urging you as President to issue an Executive Order to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, something that you promised farmers while on the campaign trail in 2007. It is urgent that the U.S. government rectify the 20 year old politically engineered loophole and allow for open and transparent labeling of genetically engineered foods," the letter continues, "a basic right that citizens in 62 others countries already enjoy."
Other groups have aimed their ire toward the more worthy target, criticizing Congress for slipping the language into a must-pass bill without review by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees. The International Business Times reports that the Center for Food Safety is putting in the hot seat Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, for not giving the amendment a proper hearing. According to Salon, many members of Congress who voted to approve the bill were unaware the language existed.
(Full article at the link)
Seeking a "balance"? It's amusing that Food Democracy Now is urging the president to use an Executive Order to mandate GMO labeling. As if campaign promise is something that any candidate should fulfill once in office. As if the president cares, when his food safety czar is a former vice president of Monsanto. And an Executive Order?
I'd love to know who put this section into the bill, though.
CBS says "refusal to do so [sign the bill] would have expired the federal budget and triggered a government-wide shutdown this week", as if it is a really bad thing. Very funny.
The proposition that would have required GMO labeling in California was soundly defeated in the November 2012 election by an extremely well-funded, out-of-state industrial lobby headed by Monsanto.