By: Trevor Loudon
“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson.
This Founding Father would be rolling in his grave if he knew of the draconian measures to restrict food production the Senate is seeking to bring in. Under the deceptive title of the “FDA Food Safety Modernization Act,” the bill if passed into law will crack down not only on large corporations, but also on “small businesses and entities that sell directly to consumers,” and will give authorities power to further regulate “growing, harvesting, sorting, packing and storage operations, minimum standards related to soil amendments, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment and water.”
The Food Safety Bill (S. 510) is being heralded as more dangerous than even the Health Care Reform which passed earlier this year. Section 404 makes it clear that the bill seeks to conform to the requirements of the World Trade Organization and grants new authority to the Department of Homeland Security to oversee food production. Here’s the key catchphrase from the proponents of this bill, responding to criticisms that the bill will cripple small-time farmers. This comment from Sandra Eskin of the Pew Charitable Trusts:
“Rather than telling people they don’t have to meet these basic safety requirement that will be scale and size appropriate, rather than exempting them we think you should be giving assistance in helping them meet the requirements of the law.”
Because that’s what we want, isn’t it? We want the Government to protect us with the likes of this highly regulative “food safety” bill and then to very kindly help us to meet the requirements of the law. Eskin also applies the tired “progressive” argument that the law is too old:
“The last time that the FDA’s law related to food was changed in any material way was 1938… Over the course of the following decades, we’ve seen our food supply expand and change markedly but the law has not kept up.”
“Progressive” Democratic Senator for Montana, Jon Tester, proposed amendments which would exempt small producers and producers that sell primarily directly to consumers, hotels and restaurants from new regulations. Mark Kastel, co-founder of The Cornucopia Institute explained the need for the Tester amendment:
“We want to make sure that consumers have the right to choose between these two alternative supply systems (large scale farms and small farmers). Since nothing is 100 percent sure, I for one will gamble with my health, and the health of my family, by continuing to patronize local organic farmers. Weighing the risks, and the benefits of superior quality and nutrition, I think I am making a good investment. The concern is that this bill, without the Tester amendment, will competitively and economically injure these farmers, probably the safest farmers in our country, and deprive some consumers of this option in the marketplace.”
On Nov. 18 the bill passed with a compromised version of Tester’s amendment. Rady Ananda at Food Freedom has stated that the amendment is simply “lipstick on a pig” and lists the shortcomings in the bill as it currently stands:
- It does not address the real causes of food safety issues stemming from the centralized, industrialized food supply chain;
- It ensures that international trade agreements have supremacy over local laws;
- It destroys States’ rights to define a culturally-appropriate legal platform under which food is produced and distributed;
- It transfers authority over food regulation enforcement from the FDA to the Department of Homeland Security, which brought us the liberty-killing, child-molesting TSA, which disastrously handled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which has genocidally turned its eyes away from the ongoing BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico;
- It extends a failed and destructive HACCP to all food, thus threatening to do to local food production and farming what HACCP did to meat production – it eliminated small and medium-sized meat packers; and
- It significantly increases FDA’s power, an agency which has stated on public record that the American people have no “fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health” and “do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.”
It is particularly important to note that claims that the Tester amendment will now:
“…exempt small farmers who make less than $500,000 a year in revenue and sell directly to consumers, restaurants or grocery stores within their states or within 275 miles.”
Are false, because it only exempts these small farmers from having to submit food safety plans. It does not exempt them from inspections that they get billed for, licensing requirements with expensive quality controls and product confiscation. And anyway, as the dollar crashes, how much is $500,000 a year going to be worth? In response to the arguments being made in favor of the bill with advocates touting the “5,000 deaths occur every year as a result of food-borne illness,” David E. Gumpert, health and food issues reporter, makes the following important point:
“…Some of the injuries that have resulted from food-borne illness aren’t necessarily a result of an absence of legislation. They are the result of the FDA not doing its job. For example, the FDA knew for years about the problems with the Iowa egg producers, yet didn’t go after them in anything like the aggressive way it has gone after small food producers who have made no one ill.”
Off the Grid News explains what will happen to seeds if the bill passes:
“The big agriculture giants want to make you dependent on them for any seed, even if it’s heirloom seed. They know that they need the regulatory heft of Big Brother in order to accomplish this. First they need to eliminate seed cleaning equipment. They get the FDA to set minimum “food safety” standards for seed cleaning so that any farmer would need at least a million dollars in structure and equipment to meet the new requirements. And that’s per line of seed.”
Harsh regulation of seed handling will of course, result in larger corporations such as Monsanto consolidating the production of seeds. Interesting to note that George Soros’ hedge fund has just bought 897,813 shares (valued at $312.6 million) in Monsanto. It is Soros’ second biggest investment. More on conflicts of interest within the FDA here.
The bill also increases the costs of the FDA, with $825 million set aside for 2010 and “such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 2011 through 2014.” The bill then stipulates that no fewer than 1,200 additional staff must be employed at the Office of Regulatory Affairs of the Food and Drug Administration, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
- Jeff Bingaman (NM)
- Robert Menendez (NJ)
- Chris Dodd (CT)
- Tom Harkin (IA), National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy
- Ben Nelson (NE)
- Tom Udall (NM), Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Roland Burris (IL), also Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
- Ted Kaufman (DE)
- The late Ted Kennedy (MA), supporter of ACORN
- Amy Klobuchar (MN)
- Richard Burr (NC)
- Saxby Chambliss (GA)
- Michael Enzi (WY)
- Judd Gregg (NH)
- Johnny Isakson (GA)
- Lamar Alexander (TN)
- David Vitter (LA).
A letter to the editor of Anchorage Daily News was titled, “Pry my turnip from my cold, dead hand,” in which the author wrote, “I’d like to see who’s going to stop me from growing a turnip or two.”
You can roll your eyes and say “that’s never going to happen” – but if you want to ensure that it doesn’t, then write to your Senator – in particular the Republicans who voted to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate.
Update – Nov. 24, 11:10 pm: Removed Orrin Hatch’s name from list of co-sponsors, as original list taken from an older copy of the bill.