“If the bee disappears from the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” Albert Einstein.
They have been in existence for over 100 million years, but it has taken us less than 30 years to kill almost all of them off. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating 60% of the world’s food supply. Without them, the human race would face starvation. A worldwide epidemic, it has been called the bee apocalypse by Russia’s president, but it is worse in the United States than any other country. Since 1972, feral honey bees in the United States have declined 80% to near extinction, and domestic bees in the United States are down to 60%. Since 2006, the epidemic has been referred to as colony collapse disorder, describing the disappearance of entire colonies of bees.
Among the causes cited for this disaster of epidemic proportions are parasites, the decrease in abundance and diversity of wildflowers, insecticides and genetically engineered foods (GMO’s) that create their own synthetic pesticides which kill bees as well as other insects. But one thing is for certain– mankind is responsible for the drastic decline in bee population and the United States government is doing nothing about it. On the contrary, the government has taken measures to make the problem worse.
While other countries around the world are taking action to try to stop the bee apocalypse, such as the UK, which passed the Bees Act in 1980 and the European Union, who is moving to ban bee killing pesticides, the United States has done nothing to halt the use of bee killing pesticides and is actually encouraging the continued use of genetically engineered plants that have been proven in our courts and others around the world to be dangerous to the environment.
Monsanto’s Mon810 corn is genetically engineered to produce a synthetic pesticide that has been proven to destroy bees and has been banned in Poland. Monsanto’s GMO’s are no longer welcome in Europe, and, as a result, the company no longer markets them there. Neonicotinoid pesticides, manufactured in the United States by Bayer and in Switzerland by Swiss GMO manufacturer and pesticide giant Syngenta, are being banned in Europe for massive bee deaths. But, due to the fact that giant companies like Monsanto can buy themselves legislation to immunize themselves from liability, don’t expect the United States to ban the bee killing pesticides or plants anytime soon.
On March 31, 2013, the Senate passed the “Farmer Assurance Provision,” which was signed into law by President Obama on March 26, 2013. The Provision has been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act,” after the huge chemical conglomerate who makes the offending genetically engineered seeds.
The Plant Protection Act, passed in 2000 (7 USC section 7701 et. Seq.), authorizes the Dept. of Agriculture to prevent the introduction of “plant pests” into the United States food supply. Regulations classify genetically engineered plants as “plant pests.” Persons wishing to plant such genetically engineered plants are prohibited from doing so unless granted non-regulated status by the Animal and Plant Inspection Service. In order to grant the non-regulated status, a detailed environmental impact statement must be prepared by the federal agencies responsible.
What the Monsanto Protection Act does is strip the federal courts of their power to protect the environment by making any court reversal of non-regulated status or a court injunction against growing plants that have been proven to be dangerous ineffectual, at the request of any grower or seed producer, who petitions the Dept. of Agriculture for an exemption. Hence the term “Monsanto Protection Act” as Monsanto is the largest producer of genetically engineered seeds in the world, and certainly footed the lobby bill for the provision.
The bad news is that giant corporations throw giant money to lobbyists who control Congressmen and Senators who are supposed to work for you. The good news is that this provision is temporary and there is a huge grass roots movement calling for its repeal. So effective has been the movement, that Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon (where non-approved Monsanto wheat recently contaminated wheat fields, nine years after and 500 miles away from Monsanto field trials), is proposing to introduce an amendment to repeal the provision. Contamination of natural plant life by genetically engineered crops, which are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, occurs naturally by the process of pollination. The wheat crisis is being minimized by the government, despite the fact that it could affect wheat exports, which are mostly to countries who will not accept the genetically engineered wheat. The United States is the largest exporter of wheat in the world.
You can be sure that the practice of bypassing courts by custom designed legislation will continue, which raises the question of the constitutionality of this practice. Courts must begin with the presumption that an Act of Congress is constitutional, unless the lack of constitutional authority is clearly demonstrated. United States v. Harris, 106 U.S. 629, 635 (1883). Does our constitution protect our environment from destruction and guarantee us the right not to be poisoned in our own backyard? “A law that impinges upon a fundamental right explicitly or implicitly secured by the Constitution is presumptively unconstitutional.” City of Mobile, Alabama v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55 (1979). Therefore, if the right to an environment free from destruction is a fundamental right, there is some authority to argue that the Monsanto Protection Act, and other laws that are sure to follow it, are unconstitutional.
The prevention of the destruction of our environment has been recognized internationally as a fundamental human right, and it is a violation of international law to subject individuals to scientific experimentation without their consent. “In 1955, the draft International Covenants on Human Rights was revised to add a second sentence to its prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The addition provided that “[i]n particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation involving risk, where such is not required by his state of physical or mental health.” Annotations on the text of the draft International Covenants on Human Rights, at 31, U.N. GAOR, 10th Sess., Annexes, agenda item 28(II), U.N. Doc. A/2929 (July 1, 1955). The clause was later revised to offer the simpler and sweeping prohibition that “no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.” ICCPR, supra, at art. 7. This prohibition became part of Article 7 of the ICCPR, which entered into force in 1976, and is legally binding on the more than 160 States-Parties that have ratified the convention without reservation to the provision. By its terms this prohibition is not limited to state actors; rather, it guarantees individuals the right to be free from nonconsensual medical experimentation by any entity—state actors, private actors, or state and private actors behaving in concert.” See Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Inc., 562 F.3d 163 (2nd Cir. 2009).
The Ninth Circuit has upheld the prosecution of human rights violations in other countries under the Alien Torts Statute for actions which result in the destruction of the environment. Sarei v. Tinto, PLC, 671 F. 3d 736 (9th Cir. 2011). It stands to reason that the citizens of our own country should also have the same human rights.
Moreover, to allow the executive branch (such as the Dept. of Agriculture) to exempt persons affected by a court order or judgment from the effect of that order or judgment is a violation of the constitutional separation of powers. The separation of powers into the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government is fundamental to its survival and the preservation of liberty. These distinctions are designed to act as checks and balances against each other and the lines between them should not be blurred at the request of one individual or, in this case, one company, at the expense of the protection of our food supply and our very survival. “Our federal system provides a salutary check on governmental power. As Justice Harlan once explained, our ancestors “were suspicious of every form of all-powerful central authority.” Harlan, supra n. 16, at 944. To curb this evil, they both allocated governmental power between state and national authorities, and divided the national power among three branches of government. Unless we zealously protect these distinctions, we risk upsetting the balance of power that buttresses our basic liberties,” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Mississippi, 456 U.S. 742 at 791 (1982), Justice O’Connor concurring and dissenting in part (emphasis added).
“The “concept of separation of powers,” then, is exemplified by “the very structure of the Constitution.” Miller v. French, 530 U.S. 327, 341, 120 S.Ct. 2246, 147 L.Ed.2d 326 (2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). “The Framers regarded the checks and balances that they had built into the tripartite Federal Government as a self-executing safeguard against the encroachment or aggrandizement of one branch at the expense of the other.” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 122, 96 S.Ct. 612, 46 L.Ed.2d 659 (1976). “While the boundaries between the three branches are not `hermetically’ sealed, the Constitution prohibits one branch from encroaching on the central prerogatives of another.” Miller, 530 U.S. at 341, 120 S.Ct. 2246 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Accordingly, the Supreme Court has “not hesitated to strike down provisions of law that either accrete to a single Branch powers more appropriately diffused among separate Branches or that undermine the authority and independence of one or another coordinate Branch.” Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361, 382, 109 S.Ct. 647, 102 L.Ed.2d 714 (1989). . .In cases involving the Judicial Branch, the Court has traditionally acted to ensure “that the Judicial Branch neither be assigned nor allowed tasks that are more properly accomplished by other branches,” and “that no provision of law impermissibly threatens the institutional integrity of the Judicial Branch.“ Mistretta, 488 U.S. at 383, 109 S.Ct. 647 (citation, internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). “Even when a branch does not arrogate power to itself, . . . the separation-of-powers doctrine requires that a branch not impair another in the performance of its constitutional duties.” Loving, 517 U.S. at 757, 116 S.Ct. 1737.” Mc Mellon v. United States, 387 F. 3d 329 at 342 (4th Cir. 2004) (emphasis added).
Congress cannot vest review of the decisions of Article III courts in officials of the Executive Branch. Hayburn’s Case, 2 Dall. 409 (1792), Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211 (1995). Interference by the executive branch, with orders of the judicial branch violates the separation of powers. See Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997).
In this case, not only is the legislative branch interfering with the powers of Article III courts, but the interference also allows the executive branch (the USDA) to set aside and invalidate the enforcement of a court judgment, order or injunction. We must protect our courts from this interference. They are the only vestige of the government that we can actually reach out to as individuals and who must listen to and answer us. And they may be the only hope for the bees’ (and our) survival.