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Friday, April 10, 2009

the end of organic farming as we know it?

i've recently been receiving email messages from friends about HR 875: The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 and how it could criminalize organic farming.

here's one such message:

Protect our organic foods!!!!
Let your voice be HEARD, SPREAD the word and SPEAK UP NOW!

H.R. 875 Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, if passed, will criminalize organic farms, force ORGANIC farms to use pesticides and force us to use them in our own back yards. No surprise here as MONSANTO is one of the backers of this bill which is the world's largest herbicide and pesticide company and the leading producer of Genetically Engineered seeds which are now causing unexpected diseases in humans and evil on many other levels (watch Future of Food).

There is an enormous rush to get this into law within the next 2 weeks before people realize what's happening. This Bill will require organic farms to use specific fertilizers and poisonous insect sprays dictated to "make sure there is no danger to the public food supply". There are 40 co-sponsors to the bill and 6 of the 40 are from CA!

the website leavemyfoodalone.org talks about the consequences of the bill which is currently under review:

In its current form, the bill could prevent small local organic farms and community gardeners from growing and selling you nutritious, truly fresh, organic produce. It would crush our small local food producers by imposing heavy government regulation that only large corporations could adhere to. Imagine:

~ No more farmers markets.
~ No more garden fresh, seasonal ingredients from the local farmer at your favorite restaurant.
~ No more roadside stands with fresh picked sweet corn, juicy ripe tomatoes, or refreshing watermelons in the summer.
~ Americans would essentially be forced to only eat corporately manufactured, chemically treated, hermetically sealed, irradiated fruits and vegetables.

Stop this abomination now.

always the skeptic, i've postponed signing any petitions until i've had a chance to learn more about the issue...

... and this saturday, april 11th, on KCRW's good food, evan kleiman will be talking with tom philpott of grist.org about the myths and facts of this bill. i suggest you tune in to 89.9 KCRW at 11am saturday to listen to what he has to say. and if you miss the broadcast, not to worry; you'll be able to access the archived version or the podcast at the KCRW website.

so here's what tom posted about the issue:

Would new food-safety legislation ‘criminalize organic farming’? No

The Internets are abuzz with accounts of a House bill, allegedly sponsored by Monsanto and pushed through Congress by its lackeys, that would "criminalize organic farming" and even backyard gardening. The object of frenzy: H.R. 875, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, a bill that attempts to bolster the broken food-safety system.

Here’s how one critic, whose work circulates widely on sustainable-food listservs, characterizes it:

"The bill is monstrous on level after level—the power it would give to Monsanto, the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hours GPS tracking of their animals, the easements on their property to allow for warrantless government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition by the filthy, greedy industrial side of anti-farming international "industrial" standards to independent farms—the only part of our food system that still works, the planned elimination of farmers through all these means."

Wait, did she just say "the planned elimination of farmers"?

I’ve been reading hysterical missives about H.R. 875 for weeks. I could never square them with the text of the bill, which is admittedly vague. For example, the bill seeks to regulate any "food production facility" which it defines as "any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation."

But then again, the USDA already regulates farms. And "24 hours GPS tracking of ... animals"? Not in there. "Warrentless government entry" to farms? Can’t find it.

More recently, reading around the web, I found more reasoned takes on H.R. 875. The bill may not be worth supporting—and from what I hear, it has little chance of passing. But it hardly represents the "end of farming," much less the end of organic farming. The Organic Consumers Association, an energetic food-industry watchdog, recently called the paranoia around H.R. 875 the "Internet rumor of the week."

The Organic Consumers Association has this to say:

"The Organic Consumers Association is not taking a position for or against this bill, but encouraging its members to write to Congress to urge it to enact food safety legislation that addresses the inherent dangers of our industrialized food system without burdening certified organic and farm-to-consumer operations."

Quite sensibly, the OCA wants Congress to avoid "one-size-fits-all legislation." Regulations that make sense for a 1000-acre spinach farm could push a diversified operation that includes spinach in its crop mix out of business. Sustainable-food advocates should oppose H.R. 875 until it adds scale-appropriate language.

But effective opposition does not mean indulging in fictional rants about it. There’s no evidence that the bill aims to end farming; insisting that it does destroys credibility.

Meanwhile, Food & Water Watch, a group that does generally excellent work, has issued a statement debunking myths around H.R. 875. Anyone who’s been lashed into a frenzy by doomsday accounts of this bill should read the F&WW statement.

we definitely should keep this issue on our radar screens. i know i will...


Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the heads up on this! I'm not sure why folks are not shouting it from the roof tops... Great post.

12:22 PM  
Blogger joni said...

hi janaki -- glad i was able to share the information with you!

11:22 PM  

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