What is the 'Monsanto Protection Act'?

Anger over the "Monsanto Protection Act" is growing like an herbicide-resistant weed, fueled by news the rider was anonymously added to a U.S. budget bill in an apparent favor to biotech firms. 

The measure has made unlikely allies of Tea Party and environmental groups, inspired more than 250,000 people to sign a petition opposing it, and even prompted the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee to retroactively disavow it.

But what exactly is the Monsanto Protection Act? And why is it causing such an uproar?

The mysterious rider
First, it isn't actually called the Monsanto Protection Act. Its more formal name is Section 735 of the "Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013," or H.R. 933, an appropriations bill that President Obama signed into law last week. The bill averted a government shutdown, but many lawmakers were reportedly unaware of Section 735's existence. In fact, rather than undergoing a formal committee hearing, the rider was anonymously inserted as the larger bill wound through Congress, sparking accusations of opacity, collusion and corruption. Its origins remain hazy, but Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has since told Politico he "worked with" Monsanto to secure the rider.

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