HR 875 (the “Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009”) does a lot of things. The question, of course, is whether or not most of those things are good, bad, or somewhere in between. Myself, I have not read the actual Bill. But I’ve gotten no shortage of emails from friends and various other comrades alerting me to the Bill, sending links to one analysis or another, and generally bringing to my attention the “fact” that HR 875 could decimate organic farming, make direct-to-the-public farm sales (a la farmer’s markets and the like) illegal, and perhaps most disturbing of all, outlaw backyard gardens (or at least subject them to Federal regulation).
Luckily for me (and now you) well-known environmental author (and former ISE Board Member) Brian Tokar is a friend of mine. He sent me one of the better low-downs I’ve seen on the Bill- namely that it has it’s flaws- for certain- but that it is generally a good (or at least, a decent) Bill that would first and foremost toughen consumer protection (like against salmonella) and enforce more stringent oversight on production facilities and inter-state commerce.
Whether or not one likes HR 875 or not is a matter of nuance. But there are a lot of rumors masquerading around out there as “fact” that are just generally not true. Interestingly enough, the source of most of the bad word on HR 875 looks to be nutjob right-wingers (one “lefty” even included a link to a Ron Paul website in her email about how bad HR 875 supposedly is). Also interestingly enough, they’re nutjob rightwingers that I don’t particularly disagree with on a number of issues (these groups oppose animal ID’s and generally any and all government intervention in the farm industry). But that’s the rub: the source of most of the info out on the web about HR 875 are libertarian-right groups that oppose all government intervention into agriculture on the premise that business (and particularly agri-business) should be left free to do as they please. While I certainly am no fan of government intervention and regulation, short of a Stateless socialist society government can and does provide a very crucial role (occasionally) in protecting the general public from the horrific and dangerous things that corporations would (and do) try to pass onto us.
But and for instance- it’s widely circulating that the Bill was essentially “written” by Monsanto- the source of this claim appears to be the fact that one of the lead sponsors of the HR 875 is married to a woman who works at a high-profile marketing firm, that several years ago was hired by Monsanto. That is the extent that I”‘ been able to find “proof” of Monsanto’s involvement in HR 875; and that is the extent of “fact” that the right usually looks for- mere happenstance that can by extrapolated far beyond what’s reasonable or true.
Also for instance- HR 875 is big on creating an accountable supply chain so that, for instance, when contamination is discovered the source farm or manufacturing facility can be more easily identified and isolated. The language of this section of the Bill is what the rightwingers harp on as key “shutting down” farmer’s markets and backyard gardens (because of the possible exuberant costs of setting up such tracking systems). Um, don’t be fooled folks- if you get your food from a farmer’s market or your own back yard, you know 100% the “supply chain” of your food, so should anyone become ill tracing the sources of those foods is gonna be pretty simple. HR 875 requires nothing more than that.
If you’re not interested in taking my word (I’m out of town and don’t have much time for the computer, so I’m posting this quick without all the links I could be giving you), then at least consider the opinion of the Organic Consumer’s Association (who’ve been at the leading edge of pushing and advocating for organic food and farming standards for over decade). If you don’t like them, there’s Food & Water Watch. Both have come out to varying degrees of support for HR 875- not exactly the “end of organic farming” that 99.9% of the emails I’ve received promise.
So, yeah, HR 875 does a lot and there’s plenty to not like about the Bill. Personally, I grow nauseous at the idea of Federal regulation of my garden or the small local farmer’s who supply my farmer’s market. In fact, I grow nauseous at the idea of the Federal government in general; but short of a libertarian revolution, there’s no solid logic to opposing regulation for the sake of opposing regulation- lets get the gist of what the regulations actually are before reacting. And lets not ever let the wingnut right lead us- anywhere.