Green Party urges amendment to food safety bills

h/t to my co-blogger, Ian Wilder at www.onthewilderside.com Excerpt from a Green Party press release…

Green Party urges amendment to food safety bills citing need to protect family farms and organic farming

Green Party leaders voiced concerns about the “Food Safety Modernization Act” (HR 875 and S 425) and, while supporting the goal of food safety and farm inspections, urged amendments in the bill to protect small and family farms, farmers’ markets, and organic farming.

America needs national food safety guarantees in the age of genetic modification, misleading labeling, food-borne illnesses and contaminants, especially pesticides. But the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the bills endangers family farms and local, organic agriculture. Without amendments, the result of HR 875 and S 425 may be the demise of small farms and organic agriculture, increased profits and the expansion of giant agri-businesses.

Rather than crushing protocols and penalties, we call for regulation that ensures food safety by working with family farms, farmers markets, and similar small businesses and promotes the selling of locally, organically, and sustainably grown produce.

Greens noted that the bills do not address the problems of the large corporate farms: poor working conditions, limitations on fast marketing because of large quantities of produce, long-distance markets, overuse of chemicals, petroleum dependence, and lack of quality, nutrition, taste, and freshness. It is now accepted that many food marketing companies are damaging food safety standards with their tendency to promote unhealthy foods, which is leading to an increased number of obesity and diabetes cases. This is why more people need to learn about Ceres PR and other food marketing companies that want to promote a healthier standard of living.

Recent breakdowns in food safety have been the result of major corporate farming practices that fail to control pathogens, because of indequate regulatory oversight caused by the influence of agricultural monopolies on state and national agencies responsible for protecting consumers. Greens said that all farms should be held to strict standards and undergo inspections, but warned that the cost of paperwork and oversight protocols would be prohibitive to small farms and would ultimately harm consumers if small farms were subjected to the same requirements as huge agribusiness farms.

The Green Party’s national platform advocates “legislation that assists new farmers and ranchers, that promotes widespread ownership to small and medium-sized farms and ranches, and that revitalizes and repopulates rural communities and promotes sustainable development and stewardship” (http://www.gp.org/platform/2004/ecology.html#753970).

For more information on the Food Safety bills and concerns about their effect on small farms, visit the Cornucopia Institute’s web pages: “Farmers Fear Being Run over by Food Safety Juggernaut” (April 2, 2009) (http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_17451.cfm); Action Alert: Critical Pending Food Safety Legislation (http://www.cornucopia.org/2009/03/action-alert-critical-pending-food-safety-legislation).

See also “Food Safety Hits the Fan: Regulatory Action, Inaction and Over-reaction and the Effects on Small Scale Growers” by Steve Gilman, Northeast Organic Farm Association – Interstate Council Policy Coordinator (http://www.nofa.org/policy/leafygreens.php).

8 thoughts on “Green Party urges amendment to food safety bills

  1. Susan Hogarth

    Recent breakdowns in food safety have been the result of major corporate farming practices that fail to control pathogens…

    Despite my distaste for many ‘major corporate farming practices’, I’m not entirely convinced of this. I think to some extent it’s true, but both large-scale and small-scale production methods have sanitation risks – just not necessarily the same ones.

    I think what’s probably happened is that the tracking and reporting of incidents has gotten better, so now we’re simply seeing the bigger picture. I’m fairly confident there were similar ‘outbreaks’ 10 or 20 years ago, but the cases were so isolated that they weren’t necessarily linked together.

    I do absolutely agree with these concerns, and think the LP should address them as well:

    But the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the bills endangers family farms and local, organic agriculture. Without amendments, the result of HR 875 and S 425 may be the demise of small farms and organic agriculture, increased profits and the expansion of giant agri-businesses.

  2. Mrs Sabo

    The answer to this series of bills is simple. Since the Legislators and some lobbiest groups say that these bills will not affect small farmers, organics or home gardens – create an Amendment to the proposed bills such as:

    “No home garden or small farmers shall fall under written legislation contained within (insert Bill number umpty sqat).”

    If it doesn’t include said individuals – write the proposed law to exclude them.

    It can be difficult (posturing, articles, debates, etc.) or it can be simply stated with 14 words.

  3. Ross Levin

    Susan – the peanut recalls and the spinach recalls and the Chinese milk thing were due to industrial farming and processing, although I’m not sure about the other recalls. The spinach one was caused by sewage runoff from nearby factory farms, the peanut recalls were caused by horrible conditions at processing plants (although I guess that could happen on a small scale, too, but in this case it didn’t – and I’m talking about things like roaches on the line with peanuts and rat poop all over the factories), the Chinese milk thing was that melamine was added to milk to make it more profitable for a Chinese industrial processor.

  4. Susan Hogarth

    Susan – the peanut recalls and the spinach recalls and the Chinese milk thing were due to industrial farming and processing, although I’m not sure about the other recalls.

    I’m not questioning that – what I’m questioning is whether we are now seeing more case than we’ve seen because we’re *looking* more.

  5. Mik Robertson

    While methods for identifying and reporting food-related problems have improved, the potential for greater harm goes up proportionately with larger operations. Not only do more people get affected by tainted food that reaches two million consumers from a processing plant than tainted food that reaches thirty five people from a farm stand, it is more difficult to keep the large operations contaminant-free.

    This is nothing new, look at the problems with Armour meat packing just before the turn of the 20th century. The trouble is the federal government doesn’t make a good regulator for small producers. That’s why when the organic standards went from being policed by certifying organizations to a federalized standard, so large corporations could put the words “certified organic” on product labels, the standards went to hell.

    The more food production gets concentrated into large producers the more at risk we will be from tainted food. The more regulated small farmers become, the more agriculture will be concentrated into large producers.

  6. Susan Hogarth

    While methods for identifying and reporting food-related problems have improved, the potential for greater harm goes up proportionately with larger operations.

    Again: I’m not questioning that. I *agree*. I’m a big proponent of small-scale (household, preferably) poultry-raising, and I was disgusted at the attempts of the mega-poultry operations to whip up a scare over ‘bird flu’ to try to squeeze out small operators.

    The trouble is the federal government doesn’t make a good regulator for small producers.

    I couldn’t agree more. And the *reason* they don’t is because LARGE producers pretty much write the regulations. What people need to consider is that this isn’t simply somethign that needs tweaking, but it’s how government ‘works’ – how it’s *designed* to work.

    That’s why when the organic standards went from being policed by certifying organizations to a federalized standard, so large corporations could put the words “certified organic” on product labels, the standards went to hell.

    Yep. The market was working, and government came in and f-ed it up. “For the children”.

    I’m on your side here – squarely! Just pointing out that there probably is some detectioneffect going on, as well,

  7. paulie

    I couldn’t agree more. And the *reason* they don’t is because LARGE producers pretty much write the regulations. What people need to consider is that this isn’t simply somethign that needs tweaking, but it’s how government ‘works’ – how it’s *designed* to work.

    Exactly. This applies to agriculture, and everything else.

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