Sunday, November 21, 2010

Teabaggers Oppose Food Safety Modernization Act

This was flying right under my radar until a friend alerted me to some viral email that is being circulated around the country. I don’t usually get to hear about these extremists.

Here is an excerpt from the email:
“THE FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act! Will be voted on soon! This bill is perhaps the most dangerous far reaching bill in our history! If S 510 becomes law it would preclude the right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat every food made by nature! Your right to grow and consume your own food...GONE! Home gardens, patio gardens, ability to store or own seeds, food supplements, farming as we know it....GONE! The Dept of Homeland Security, DOD, WTO, UN, WHO, FAO will have complete control over your food! And if caught growing your own food.....felony! Yep! Lock you up!”
Yep. Lock you up.

Nuttier than squirrel poop.

Here is what is true.

Apparently the Senate is poised to pass S 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act. This act will increase federal authority over food that is grown and raised, transported and then sold in markets and restaurants around the country. It will regulate food that is imported from other countries.

It will ensure, in short, that food is safe to eat.

This bill was a natural reaction to the increase in occurrences of food poisoning by Salmonella bacteria and other things that can make you sick. Here in Texas a local peanut butter processing plant spread Salmonella in its product, and people I know got sick from it. It was later found that the State of Texas not only had never inspected the plant, it was never licensed by state health authorities.

So when the state falls on its keester and fails to protect Texans from unsanitary food preparation practices, someone has to step up.

The trouble is this has rung the collective bells of Teabaggers and other Libertarians who oppose government regulation in general, and government regulation of the food supply in particular.

It stimulates their paranoia glands.

Now here is the curiosity. The Food Safety Modernization Act is fully supported by agri-business. They welcome the regulation. And as it turns out for a reason. Not only will it regulate agri-business, but apparently small-scale farms as well. And this is what has the Teabaggers so enraged. So enraged that they spread their own set of facts out on the internet.

Now, I am told, because I looked it up, that S 510 has been amended by the so-called Tester-Hagen Amendment that exempts “small potatoes” farmers from the regulatory aspects of the bill. Farmers that make less then 500 large per year selling their crops to grocers and restaurants would be exempt. The amendment is, for now, included in the bill.

But here’s the thing: agri-business is somewhat enraged over the Tester-Hagen Amendment specifically because the “small potatoes” farmer that they have been trying to push out of business since McCormick invented his reaper is protected, and exempted by this amendment.

And now we know why agri-business was so anxious for this new regulation to be heaped on them.

So that’s why I say that the amendment is part of the bill “for now.” Let’s see what side of the fence the Senate really is sitting on. The side of the fence of people who are sick and tired of getting sick by an unregulated industry, or the side of the fence of people who want to see the family farm become a thing for history books.

I am characteristically pessimistic.

1 comment:

Shaun said...

Interesting blog. Thanks for writing something up on the food safety bill. Unfortunately I think it's an oversimplification to say that the Teabaggers are the ones behind the conspiracy theories. There are a lot of leftwingers, too. But you're right on the account that these paranoid theories are nutsoid.

You're also right that the industrial ag companies have been supporting the bill and pushing for it to be passed without the Tester-Hagan amendment because they know what it could possibly do to their small farm competition: put them out of business.

I work for a community organizing nonprofit that works with small farmers to support sustainable agriculture and we've been pushing our Senators to support these very amendments and to pass the bill. The reasons: all of the widespread outbreaks have come from industrial food companies (who have enormous, long supply chains and mix together produce from sometimes hundreds of sources); small farms are already regulated by state and county food safety laws; and the amendment applies to small farmers who do the majority of their business selling directly to customers (be they individuals, grocery stores or restaurants) and this means ease of traceability and accountability.

In other words, the systems to trace outbreaks from small farms selling direct are already there (at the state and county level). What's needed is a federal system for holding the industrial food corporations accountable when they make people sick.

A good analogy I heard was that we don't make bicyclists get their CDL, but we do make truckers. Both share the road, but their respective risks for harm are enormously different and the systems for regulating them should also be.

Thanks again for the post and also for being engaged in our political system!