(all links for this article can be found at the original source's website: http://www.cornucopia.org/2009/03/action-alert-critical-pending-food-safety-legislation/)
SAMPLE LETTER — click here: We Must Tell Congress to also Protect High Quality Organic and Local Food
Local/Organic Farming: Part of the Solution, Not Part of the Problem!
1. HR 875: The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009
2. HR 759: The Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act of 2009
3. HR 1332: Safe FEAST Act of 2009
The blogosphere has sounded the alarm warning that Congress and agribusiness and biotechnology lobbyists are conspiring to pass legislation that will force organic and local farms, and even home gardeners, out of business. What are the threats and opportunities, and how should we gear up to communicate with our congressional representatives?
There is no question that our increasingly industrialized and concentrated food production system needs a new regulatory focus. Contamination of spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peanuts and other foods are an indictment of a food safety system that is out of control and has become dominated by corporate agribusiness and powerful insider lobbyists. Regulators at the FDA, USDA and other agencies have fallen short in their public safety responsibilities.
The public outcry over this situation has finally led some in Congress to propose remedies—and we should support strict oversight of the runaway industrial farming and food production system that is responsible for illnesses and deaths among our citizenry.
Although stakeholders in the organic community need to be on-guard, the flurry of e-mails and Internet postings suggesting that HR 875 will end organic farming as we know it seem to grossly exaggerate the risks. Here’s what we know:
Some level of reform is coming and we must work diligently to make sure that any changes do not harm or competitively disadvantage organic and local family farm producers and processors who are providing the fresh, wholesome and authentic food for which consumers are increasingly hungry.
Several bills aimed at fixing the broken food safety system have been proposed. Of these bills, the FDA Globalization Act (HR 759) appears most likely to be voted on, with elements of the other bills, including the Food Safety Modernization Act (HR 875) and the Safe FEAST Act (HR 1332) possibly incorporated into the bill.
A vote on a final bill shortly before Memorial Day is likely.
All three bills would require new food safety rules for farms and food processing businesses. Therefore, as with most legislation, the real battle will be in the rule-making process that follows the passage of the bill. We must stay engaged.
Anyone with an interest in food safety issues has probably seen or received emails charging that backyard gardens and organic farming would be outlawed by new food safety laws. We have closely read the proposed legislation, done extensive background research, and talked with the chief staff member responsible for the drafting of HR 875. Some have argued that this is a conspiracy promulgated by Monsanto and other corporate interests in conventional agriculture. It is our conclusion that none of these bills would “outlaw organic farming.” Other groups, such as Food and Water Watch and the organic certification agent CCOF have reached similar conclusions. But as we just noted, we need to be engaged in this process to protect organic and family farmer interests.
Also, concerns have been raised that these new laws don’t examine meat safety concerns. The USDA is responsible for much of the nation’s meat safety regulations. It does not appear that Congress, at this time, is prepared to address deficiencies involving meat.
HR 759, authored by John Dingell (D-MI), the House’s most senior member, is the bill that will be given priority by the House as they weigh food safety legislation. It proposes that all food processing facilities register with the FDA and pay annual fees, evaluate hazards and implement preventive controls of these hazards, monitor these controls and keep extensive records.