Friday, November 26, 2010

Stop Big Ag's Food Safety Bill in the Senate

Organic Bytes

For over a year, the Farm Bureau and large agribusiness trade organizations have pretended to support a version of Senate Bill S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which included essential amendments exempting small organic and sustainable farmers from Federal regulation. Now in the last week, Republican members of Congress and Food Inc. have announced they want to pass a one-size-fits-all S.510 without essential protections and exemptions for small organic and sustainable farmers.

From Big Ag's perspective this deceptive maneuver is a win-win: Factory Farms and GMO plantations can easily absorb the bureaucratic costs and paperwork of Federal regulations because of their size; they'll gain good PR for supposedly supporting stronger food safety practices; while their increasingly popular competition, organic and sustainable farmers and ranchers, will be wiped out by regulatory burdens. The bottom line is that factory farms and Food Inc. would like to keep poisoning 80 million Americans every year in ever-larger food safety epidemics, while organic farmers, who have an outstanding food safety record, will be driven out of business.

A letter from the Farm Bureau, Big Ag processors and retailers states: " incorporating the Tester amendment [exempting small farmers from expensive onerous Federal regulations] in the bill, consumers will be left vulnerable to the gaping holes and uneven application of the law created by these exemptions. In addition, it sets an unfortunate precedent for future action on food safety policy by Congress that science and risk based standards can be ignored."

What science and risk? Do your own Google search and you will not find any data or evidence of widespread problems caused by organic or local small farm producers. All of the major foodborne illness outbreaks, 78 million a year according to the Centers for Disease Control, have been caused by products that went through the long supply chains of factory farms, Food Inc. processing giants, and corporate agribusiness.

Agribusiness's real concern about the Tester-Hagan amendment isn't food safety, but the precedent set by having Congress recognize that small, direct-marketing producers are different and should be regulated differently from large operations.

Big Ag is demanding that Senators pull the Tester-Hagan amendment. While the amendment is currently part of the "Managers' Package" - the amended version of the bill agreed to by six bipartisan sponsors - nothing is certain until the actual vote.

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