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March 19, 2009

Seeds - How to criminalize them

By Linn Cohen-Cole

Some cannot believe that HR 875 will criminalize seed banking. "The bill doesn't say any such thing," they say. "It says food safety," they say. And Bush said he "brought democracyto Iraq." Here's how what they say is "food safety" can make saving seeds a crime.

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Wisdom says stop a bill that is broad as everything yet more vague even than it is broad. 

Wisdom says stop a bill that comes with massive penalties but allows no judicial review. 

Wisdom says stop a bill with everything unspecified and actually waits til next year for an unspecified "Administrator" to decide what's what.  

Where we come from, that's called a blank check.  Who writes laws like that?  "Here, do what you want about whatever you want and here's some deadly punishments to make it stick."

Wisdom says know who wrote that bill and be forewarned.  

Wisdom says wake up.

Here's the bill.  Let's use our imaginations and extrapolate from the little bit it reveals and from the reality we know.

SEC. 206. FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITIES.

(a) Authorities- In carrying out the duties of the Administrator and the purposes of this Act, the Administrator shall have the authority, with respectto food production facilities, to--

   (1) visit and inspect food production facilities in the United Statesand in foreign countries to determine if they are operating in compliance with the requirements of the food safety law;

   (2) review food safety records as required to be kept by the Administrator under section 210 and for other food safety purposes;

   (3) set good practice standards to protect the public and animal health and promote food safety;

   (4) conduct monitoring and surveillance of animals, plants, products, or the environment, as appropriate; 

   (5) collect and maintain information relevant to public health andfarm practices.

(b) Inspection of Records- A food production facility shall permit the Administrator upon presentation of appropriate credentials and at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner, to have access to and abilityto copy all records maintained by or on behalf of such food production establishment in any format (including paper or electronic) and at any location, that are necessary to assist the Administrator--

   (1) to determine whether the food is contaminated, adulterated, or otherwise not in compliance with the food safety law; or

   (2) to track the food in commerce.

(c) Regulations- Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture andrepresentatives of State departments of agriculture, shall promulgate regulations to establish science-based minimum standards for the safe production of food by food production facilities. Such regulations shall--

   (1) consider all relevant hazards, including those occurring naturally,and those that may be unintentionally or intentionally introduced;

   (2) require each food production facility to have a written food safety plan that describes the likely hazards and preventive controls implemented to address those hazards;

   (3) include with respect to growing, harvestingsorting,and storage operations, minimum standards related to fertizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment... and water;

Ah, such a little paragraph, and so much evil packed in it. Notice they mention harvestingsorting and  storage operations?  Notice they never mention seeds but they are precisely what those words cover.  

Now, watch how they will be able to easily criminalize seed banking and all holding of seeds.  First, to follow how this will be done, you must understand that: 

1.  there is a small list inside the FDA called "sources of seed contamination" and 

2.  the FDA has now defined "seed" as food,   

3.  so seeds can now be controlled through "food safety."   

Those seeds (so far) include: 

seeds eaten raw such as flax, poppy sesame, etc.;  
sprouting seeds such as wheat, beans, alfalfa, most greens, etc.; 
seeds pressed into oils such as corn, sunflower, canola, etc.; 
seeds used as animal feed such as soy ....   

That is most seeds.  It may even be all seeds, given how they are skilled at new definitions.  

And what are the "sources of seed contamination" inside the FDA?  They include only six little items:

agricultural water 
manure (but not chemical pesticides or fertilizers) 
harvesting, transporting and seed cleaning (sorting) equipment  
seed storage (storing) facilities 

Did you know that seed cleaning equipment is THE single most critical piece of equipment for sustainable agriculture?  It is how we collect organic seed.  It is the machinery used after the season, when plants "go to seed," to separate out (sort) the seeds from the plant material so the farmer can collect (harvest) and then save (put in storage) seed for the next year at little cost.  With his own seed, the farmer also stays free of patented, genetically engineered, corporately privatized seeds.

This year, 2009, one item on the "sources of seed contamination" list is suddenly illegal in some parts of this country - seed cleaning equipment.

To get the drift, perhaps you need to know that the people who clean seed are being wiped outas well  

How can they make such vital equipment illegal?  Quietly, first of all, so as not to alert organic farmers who have a lot of political ties.  And by saying it contaminates food.  And by applying their innocent and reasonable sounding "minimum standards."   

"Contaminate" is their favorite word since the public fears the deadly contamination that industry itself - not farmers - has caused.  That fear is valuable.  Scare the public and it is easy to get "food safety standards" set without anyone reading them.  39 progressive co-sponsors leap on, thinking this is about "food safety." But it is only about the use of "food safety," not the reality of it

For to eliminate seed cleaning equipment, the FDA simple set minimum "food safety" standards for seed cleaning (the simple separation of seed from plant) such that a farmer would need a million toa million and a half dollar building and/or equipment to meet the new requirements ... per line of seed.

On the ground, where reality lives, a farmer in the midwest who has been seed cleaning flax for 40 years with his hand made seed cleaner now can't sell his flax on the market anymore.  Never mind there are NO instances of anyone ever having gotten sick from seed cleaning equipment.  And a farmer in another part of the midwest who has been cleaning wheat, corn and soy for years with one single perfectly fine piece of equipment would now need three to four and half million dollars for three separate pieces of equipment, in order to satisfy the "food safety" standards.

The FDA isn't so high-bar setting when it comes to other things like melamine in baby formula.  Though it has proven to sicken and kill infants, initially the FDA just denied the melamine was in all the corporate baby formula but when people found evidence that it was, the FDA then quickly supplied a "food safety" standard that defined whatever level of melamine that was in the formula as fine.

This game playing about "food safety" standards - one to eliminate farmers by setting the bar so high no one can climb, and one to protect industry by setting the bar so low nothing need be done - is nothing new but now it is being suddenly extended to seeds.  And it comes with penalties that make bankrupting farmers in an instant, very easy.  

The effort to eliminate both seed cleaners and seed cleaning equipment tips us off to who is behind this (shhh) and to this new means of controlling seeds andmakes it possible to see just a few suspect words in this bill, and sense where things are heading.

Organic farmers are not aware of any of this happening.  It appears the organic community is being treated with kid gloves until HR 875 and related bills should be passed, coddled so they don't get wise to what's afoot.  And they are too disconnected from traditional farmers to be aware of how the USDA has been tromping on them for years.

So organic farmers have missed the handwriting on the wall for themselves.

Plus, plain ole farmers have a history of no one listening to them, which is too bad in general but now it's blatantly dangerous because it is they who are the ones bringing the warning that these bills are not just bad but deadly.  The organic community, lulled by its own seeming safety, hasn't heard or understood.

But given what just happened with seed cleaning equipment (sorting), the method and the intent are exposed.  "Food safety" is the weapon, with public fear, kept at a high pitch, as the driver.  After which, those running this game only need to set the bar at a "food safety" level impossible to meet and apply horrendous punishments for not complying.  Farmer is either crushed by that pincer move, or quits.  Either way, his land is up for grabs. 

And those severe punishments are essential to control groups which will see the whole thing for what it is - insane in terms of farming and anything to do with health, a threat to survival, and driven solely by profit and power.  

So, one crucial piece of equipment (seed cleaning) is illegal now and without most people realizing.  And simply because a single "foods safety" bar has been raised.  

In time, as more and more farmers are forbidden from using their equipment, significant sources of organic seeds will begin to dry up, at which point the organic community would begin to ask what was going on. By then, it will be too late.  

Why?  Because look at the last item on the list - (seed) storing facilities.

Farmers, gardeners, seed saving exchanges, seed companies, scientific seed projects, and seed banks, all require sorting.  All are working overtime to protect biodiversity that is rapidly disappearing specifically because of genetic engineering.  As Monsanto began reducing access to seeds, people around the world have worked hard to compensate.  

But now the effort is to take over the whole game, going after even these small sources of biodiversity - by simply defining seeds as food and then all farmers' affordable mechanisms for harvesting (collecting), sorting (seed cleaning) andstoring (seed banking or saving) as too dirty to be safe for food.  

Set the standard for "food safety" and certification high enough that no one can afford it and punish anyone who tries to save seed in ways that have worked fine for thousands of years, with a million dollar a day fine and/or ten years in prison, and presto, you have just criminalized seed banking.  

The penalties are tremendous, the better to protect us from nothing dangerous whatsoever, but to make monopoly over seed absolutely absolute.  One is left with control over farmers, an end to seed exchanges, an end to organic seed companies, an end to university programs developing nice normal hybrids, and an end to democracy - reducing us to abject dependence on corporations for food and gratitude even for genetically engineered food and at any price.

When you know that Monsanto with the help of the US government plundered ancient and rare seed banks in Iraq that held seeds with a genetic heritage (a biohistory belonging to all of us) going back 1000s of years and then made it a crime for farmers there to collect or use their own normal andnon-patented seeds off their own land, you see how extreme the intent to control is.  

Now, perhaps it is possible to see how the identical thing is being done here, only it comes in a heavily, heavily disguised way - through "food safety" that isn't "food safety" at all - and quietly sitting in only one tiny little paragraph within a very large bill (and with no reference to seeds at all).  

The Iraqis are now utterly at the mercy of Monsanto and the US for survival itself and will have to pay whatever prices are set for food.  They can no longer just grow their own and be free people.  So, no matter what form of government they may ever have, as long as this is true, they are now enslaved because the control over them is that extreme.  Kissinger was right - control food and you control people.

We are inches from this ourselves.  The left needs to wake up.

In Afghanistan, people are buying and planting beans from America which at the end of the season have nothing whatever inside, the pods are empty.  In Equador, the potatoes there do not develop eyes so can't be planted next season to grow potatoes.  

Biotech's claim to care about feeding starving multitudes is belied by its blocking human access to normal seeds and its terminator technology (empty beans).  Monopoly is monopoly is monopoly.  And at this level, and when it comes to seeds which are life itself, monopoly terminates democracy as well as beans.

This trick of setting bars above any ability to be in the game was done to blacks and in realizing this, we must hold Obama  accountable for pushing these bills which are profound civil and human rights abuses.

Click here

There are three other items of the list which surely will be controlled as well.  In toto,that little list of six items (agricultural water, manure, harvesting, transporting and seed cleaning equipment, and seed storage facilities) contains the pieces to deconstruct farming itself, especially organic farming.



Submitters Bio:

Met libertarian and conservative farmers and learned an incredible amount about farming and nature and science, as well as about government violations against them and against us all. The other side of the fence is nothing like what we've been taught to assume but great people with immense decency.

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