June 20, 2009

Because you asked!

Someone near and dear to me, someone at the heart of my heart, asked me why I wasn't posting on my blog about HR 875. I told her that it made me too mad/sad to write about. But because she asked, I'll post something.

Henry Waxman drafted HR 2749, a "food safety" bill. (For some reason, it has now been passed to Dingel who already had one, HR 759.)

There are some very alarming provisions to the bill:

1. HR 2749 would give FDA the power to order a quarantine of a geographic area, including "prohibiting or restricting the movement of food or of any vehicle being used or that has been used to transport or hold such food within the geographic area." Under this provision, farmers markets and local food sources could be shut down, even if they are not the source of the contamination. The agency can halt all movement of all food in a geographic area.
2. HR 2749 would empower FDA to make random warrantless searches of the business records of small farmers and local food producers, without any evidence whatsoever that there has been a violation. Even farmers selling direct to consumers would have to provide the federal government with records on where they buy supplies, how they raise their crops, and a list of customers.
3. HR 2749 charges the Secretary of Health and Human Services with establishing a tracing system for food. Each "person who produces, manufactures, processes, packs, transports, or holds such food" would have to "maintain the full pedigree of the origin and previous distribution history of the food," and "establish and maintain a system for tracing the food that is interoperable with the systems established and maintained by other such persons." The bill does not explain how far the traceback will extend or how it will be done for multi-ingredient foods. With all these ambiguities, it's far from clear how much it will cost either the farmers or the taxpayers.
HR 2749 creates severe criminal and civil penalties, including prison terms of up to 10 years and/or fines of up to a total of $100,000 for individuals.
5. HR 2749 would impose an annual registration fee of $500 on any "facility" that holds, processes, or manufactures food. Although "farms" are exempt, the agency has defined "farm" narrowly. And people making foods such as lacto-fermented vegetables, cheeses, or breads would be required to register and pay the fee, which could drive beginning and small producers out of business during difficult economic times.
6. HR 2749 would empower FDA to regulate how crops are raised and harvested. It puts the federal government right on the farm, dictating to our farmers.

Some are calling HR 2749 a Totalitarian Control of the Food Supply.

Farm-To-Consumer-Legal-Defense-Fund has a full analysis of the bill. You can read it here, but here is their conclusion:

The FSEA gives the Food and Drug Administration tremendous power while making the agency less accountable for its actions. It fails to describe how the resources it provides are to be allocated. The industrial food system and food imports are badly in need of effective regulation, but the bill does nothing to prevent FDA from concentrating a disproportionate amount of its resources on local food producers.

The stated purpose of the FSEA is to “improve the safety of food in the global market.” It was disclosed at the June 3rd hearing that, out of the 378,000 food facilities that have registered with FDA, 220,000 of them are foreign facilities that export to the United States. Rep. Dingell commented that the percentage of our food coming from out of the country will increase in the future. This creates massive food insecurity in our country, yet the bill continues to push the federal government’s policy of food interdependence.

While information FDA obtains may be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act [5 USC 52(a)], it may still be provided “to any foreign government agency; or any international organization established by law, treaty or other governmental action and having responsibility–to facilitate global or regional of harmonization of standards and requirements in an area of responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration; or to promote and coordinate public health efforts . . .” [section 112(b)(4)–p. 71].

Food security is achieved by becoming as self-sufficient as possible in food production. Lessening the regulatory burden on small farms and local artisanal producers will improve both food security and food safety. If the FSEA is implemented, many small producers will not have the economies of scale to be able to comply with its onerous requirements.

The Food Safety Enhancement Act needs to be defeated. Any food safety bill should target industrial food processors and imports while leaving the local food system alone. Readers need to contact their Representatives to urge them to oppose the bill. To contact legislators by zip code, use the finder tool at www.Congress.org or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Love ya, darlin'.

1 comment:

  1. Scary stuff indeed. Wish we could find another place to colonize and start our country over.


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