Your Right to Choose Healthy Food is at Stake … Again

June 19th, 2009

FDA HR 2749The politicians are at it again and have drafted another piece of so called food safety legislation that threatens the future of organically and sustainably produced food.

Bill H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, proclaims to “amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to improve the safety of food in the global market, and for other purposes.” Despite the seemingly good intention of this bill, the regulations that it aims to put into place are not the type of measures that would truly improve the safety of our food supply. Unfortunately, they’re much more likely to worsen it.

A Flawed Approach to Food Safety

In regard to food safety, the government seems to have adapted the symptom chasing mentality of our medical system. Similar to the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), H.R. 2749 suggests that food safety is more about disaster recovery than prevention.

Infection of crops and livestock is an example of a common concern among farmers, but instead of identifying and addressing it’s cause, food safety bills such as H.R. 2749 are designed to react to the problem after it’s occurred. Large industrialized farming operations often sacrifice quality for quantity and provide an inadequate environment for crops and livestock that leads to an increased susceptibility to infection and disease. This is the true threat to food safety, and by ignoring this issue, bill H.R. 2749 is effectively legitimizing the unhealthy and unsustainable practices of most large and industrialized farms.

As long as industrial farmers continue to employ these unnatural practices, regulation and intervention will never truly solve the problem. In addition, the increased regulation will make it harder for the small farmers who raise healthy crops and livestock to stay in business.

What Food Safety Should Be About

As with humans, healthy plants and animals are resistant to infection and disease. By addressing the aspects of industrial farming that compromise the health of crops and livestock, infection and disease would naturally decline and there would be much less need for strict food safety regulations.

Many large farming operations feed their animals an unnatural and poor quality diet and cram them into tight and unsanitary living quarters where they’re deprived of movement and sunlight. To compensate for the poor health that such an environment promotes, these animals are regularly treated with drugs to prevent illness.

Industrialized crop farming isn’t much better. Crops are heavily sprayed with chemicals to fight off predators and are farmed in an accelerated manner that depletes the soil that they’re grown in. Each season, the soil becomes more depleted and results in weaker crops that require more synthetic fertilizer and more chemicals. Predators eventually become resistant to the chemicals which increases their need even more.

Bill H.R. 2749 would make much more sense if it proposed to correct these flawed practices of industrial farming instead of only compensating for them. At the least, responsible farmers who are producing high quality food in a sustainable and safe manner should be excluded from the regulations that industrial farming has created the need for. Instead, bill H.R. 2749 will likely overwhelm many of these farmers and ironically force them to deviate from the safe and sustainable practices that they employ.

Who Really Benefits From “Food Safety”

The symptom driven approach to food safety that’s proposed by bill H.R. 2749 legitimizes the regular use of chemicals and other industrialized farming products. It also creates the potential for the use of such products to be mandated. This means that your favorite local organic farmers could potentially be forced into using pesticides, antibiotics, and other chemicals against their will and in the name of food safety.

Just as the drug industry thrives on chronically ill people who never correct the cause of their problems, large agricultural companies feed off of the flawed industrialized approach that has encouraged farmers to rely on pesticides, antibiotics, and other unnatural products. As such, large agricultural corporations have a significant financial interest in promoting the growth of industrialized farming and often use their political influence to their advantage.

Companies like Monsanto put forth a tremendous effort to show that their products promote sustainability and increase crop yield. Such claims suggest that they’ve found a way to outsmart and outperform nature which clearly isn’t the case. Monsanto has already caused enough trouble with their prior production of outlawed toxins such as DDT, PCBs, and Agent Orange and their current production of agricultural chemicals and genetically modified seeds. They already have a significant amount of control over the food supply and food safety bills like H.R. 2749 will potentially give them even more.

Specifics About Food Safety Bill H.R. 2749

The following are what I consider to be the most significant and problematic aspects of bill H.R. 2749. It proposes to:

  • Grant the FDA the ability to establish agricultural practices that all farmers must follow.
  • Increase the FDA’s power in a vague manner.
  • Give the FDA the authority to quarantine entire geographic areas.
  • Impose extreme financial penalties for non compliance.
  • Require excessively detailed traceability of food production.

Although this type of regulation may be needed for industrial farmers, it will likely be a significant problem for smaller farmers who use natural methods to raise healthy crops and livestock. When we go out of our way to buy from such a farmer, we’re choosing to do so based on our alignment with their practices, standards, and ethics. Allowing the FDA to dictate how these farmers operate will likely eliminate this choice and make it easier for corporate interests such as Monsanto to influence the standards that all farmers would be forced to follow. Furthermore, the overhead imposed by such regulation will make it more challenging for smaller farmers to even stay in business.

If you’d like more detail about H.R. 2749, you can read the detailed analysis provided by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. If you’d like even more detail, you can read bill H.R. 2749 in it’s entirety.

Protect Your Choice and Take Action!

The FDA approves the use of many unhealthy food additives such as artificial sweeteners, food coloring, preservatives, and flavor enhancers. Despite piles of evidence that have shown additives such as aspartame and MSG to be highly dangerous, the FDA still approves their use. Are you comfortable with the prospect of such an organization having the authority to mandate how your food is produced?

I’m certainly not and I hope you’ll join me and voice your opposition by signing the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s petition against H.R. 2749.

This article is part of Fight Back Fridays.

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