Posted on Wed, June 24, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Contaminated Food, Farms and Farming, Film/TV/Radio, Labeling, News, Current Events, Policy,
by Slow Food USA intern Carol Dacey-Charles
HR 2749The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009has passed through committee and is on its way to the House of Representatives for a vote before the July 4 holiday break. Now, given the recent and on-going challenges our food system has faced with recalls of peanuts, pistachios, spinach and tomatoes, not to mention mad cow and swine fluyou may think a little more regulation might be in order and I would agree with you. But how much of this is a good step forward in protecting the public and how much is using a sledgehammer to put up a tack?
The Act gives the FDA some powers that you might want in a food regulatory agencythe power to order a food recall, access to a farmers or producers records, and establishing a means to trace food along its chain of production. Other aspects of the new bill may make you think Big Brother is about to take over our food system. Among the “Alarming Provisions” of the bill (as reported in the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site) are: giving the FDA the power to quarantine a geographical area—prohibiting all food movement in that region; empowering the FDA to dictate how crops are raised and harvested; and the narrow definition of a “farm” that would be excluded from these new fees and regulations—it turns out if you make cheese, bread or use lacto-fermentation you are a manufacturer and not a farm. How many growers at your local farmer’s market create value-added products to boost their incomes—probably no longer if this bill passes in its current form.
If you look at the root of all these current outbreaks and all the recalls listed on the Health and Human Services website, you are going to find large agriculture and national manufacturers, not family farms and small artisanal producers. What we need is a clear look at the true nature of food production in the US today and a recognition that the agro-industrial business model—massive scale, monoculture products, focused on quantity and convenience above all else—is truly at the root of the majority of food safety issues in the country today and needs regulation and revamping. Small family farms and artisanal producers are too dependent on the health and quality of the land, livestock, produce and the products they work with not to be good stewards and practice safe methods. One lawsuit or bad product reputation will put a small business under—not so with a multi-national.
We need laws and regulations in proportion to the risk and potential reward. HR 2749 is a step in the right direction—but lets not squish the little guy on the road to progress.
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