Natural Health Remedies | Jon Barron's Health Blog

Date: 03/31/2009    Written by: Jon Barron

HR 875 – Not the End of Organic Farming

HR 875, Organic Farming

A Google search for proposed bill HR 875, otherwise known as the "Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009," brings up 4,830,000 results within .09 seconds. The entries bear such conspiratorial titles as, "Criminalize Organic Farming?" and "HR 875 -- The Food Police, Criminalizing Organic Farming and the Backyard Gardener, and Violation of the 10th Amendment," and the truly horrifying, "HR 875: The End of Organic Farming." Certainly, the internet is all "a Twitter" with scary warnings about this legislation, but are the warnings legitimate? Are we really on the brink of the annihilation of our civil rights because of this proposed legislation?

First, let's consider some facts. Connecticut congresswoman Rosa DeLauro proposed the bill, purportedly to address public health problems arising from tainted food. Given the recent food contamination scares--spinach, tomatoes, beef, peanuts, and so on, and given the fact that according to CDC estimates, food contamination causes 76 million illnesses annually and 5200 deaths in the US--calling for stricter food safety guidelines can hardly be considered radical. Then again, according to the critics, the bill veers way off course, using the "safer food" argument as a cover to push a sinister agenda for agribusiness.

Most of the alarmists claim that Representative DeLauro pushed the bill as a favor to her husband, Stanley Greenburg, who works for agricultural giant Monsanto. The bill, they say, is sponsored by Monsanto and is a thinly disguised ploy by Monsanto to take control of all food production and distribution in the US. Since Monsanto's mainstay is producing genetically modified crops, the critics claim that the bill forward's Monsanto's desire to make all crops GMO, doing away with backyard gardening and organic produce.

The bill, says Free Speech TV, would give the US Department of Agriculture the authority to tell organic farmers what to feed their animals and what toxic sprays they must use. It forces farmers to buy drugs and chemicals, "criminalizes organic farming" by claiming that it promulgates seed contamination, and imposes fines of $500,000 for non-compliance, far beyond the means of most small farmers to pay. In short, says the negative press, the bill would allow Monsanto to disallow the use of heirloom seeds or any seeds without patents, strip away property rights, and force industrialized farming on consumers. An editorial by the Campaign for Liberty says the bill makes it possible that "someone with a little backyard garden could get fined and have their property seized."

Obviously, if true, this is very scary stuff indeed. And in fact, HR 875 is a scary bill with some dangerous elements. But, in all fairness, I don't buy the idea that the bill signifies evidence of a conspiracy from Hell to assure that we all eat toxins while the major food corporations get fatter - although, it doesn't take a major stretch to believe that lobbyists for big agribusiness (including Monsanto) were able to influence its creation, even if only indirectly. More likely, though, it is just another piece of misguided political grandstanding that fails in its attempt to do what it says it wants to do--to "protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination."

Let's reconsider the facts. First of all, Stanley Greenburg, the husband of Rep. DeLauro (remember him?), does not work for Monsanto. About a decade ago, he worked for a polling company that had Monsanto as a client, but that's a very, very different relationship than the one being flamed about in the press. Also, Monsanto is not authoring nor sponsoring this bill. In fact, a representative from Monsanto, Bradley Marshall, says, "Monsanto has nothing to do with HR 875. We aren't behind it and don't even have a position on it. You can read about this in detail in our blog." This doesn't mean that Monsanto is the good guy in this scenario; simply that it probably isn't quite the villain the alternative press is making it out to be--at least in this case.

You can also read HR 875 yourself (going to the source -- what a concept), and you will discover that the bill contains no clauses indicating that it would make backyard gardeners use seed banks, nor anything at all about sending home-gardeners to jail nor seizing their land or even regulating what or how they grow produce.

In reality, the bill contains the rudiments of some potentially helpful rules around reporting and containing contaminants, in cleaning up production facilities, and in regulating edible imports, although it doesn't make clear whether the costs it would incur to enforce these regulations would be made up for in effectiveness. It's unclear if the regulations imply that seeds need to be pre-treated or if fungicides and irradiation and pesticides would be required, nor just how effective the prescribed measures might be in preventing food-borne illness, nor how the guidelines would impact small farms. This lack of clarity, of course, is a major flaw that requires that the bill, as written, be rejected. Lack of clarity is open to interpretation after the fact by ignorant bureaucrats - a proven recipe for disaster.

Clearly, the bill needs work and clarification. The fact is that the food safety problems we continually face originate with the agribusiness conglomerates, and those producers really do need stricter oversight. But the bill imposes the same regulations on smaller producers, which could drive those producers right out of business.

As the Organic Consumers' Association points out in an Action Alert, "HR 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, is a limited-vision attempt by moderate Democrats and Republicans to craft food safety legislation to address the out-of-control filth and contamination that are inherent in our industrialized, now globalized, 'profit-at-any-cost' food system. This being said, OCA does not support HR 875 in its present form, given the fact that, if the bill's regulations were applied in a one-size-fits-all manner to certified organic and farm-to-consumer operations, it could have a devastating impact on small farmers." Again, the bill isn't pretty and does have potentially damaging implications, but it's important to remember that the new administration does seem committed to organic and sustainable practices and is not planning to send Michelle Obama to jail for planting her organic garden on the White House Lawn. Representative DeLauro claims that she's been meeting with organic and small farmers to hear their issues with the bill and is drawing up a list of proposed amendments. In the meantime, if you want to take action to ensure that the evolving legislation reflects your concerns about having access to organic, locally produced food, you can check out this link to my friends at the National Health Federation.

And one final thought. I believe, yet again, the alternative health community has got itself hung up on the pinstripes of a major bill that is highly, highly unlikely to ever pass in its current form -- all the while missing the true threat to health and nutrition, the co-option that goes on in the background without any legislation being passed.

:hc

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Comments

  •  
    Submitted by Charles G Smith on
    April 3, 2009 - 10:23am

    Just make sure that Organic farming stays. Our freedoms must remain entact.

  •  
    Submitted by joel despas on
    April 13, 2009 - 6:19am

    Please do not pass the bill HR 875. We the american taxpayers have the right to have organic farms and foods. This bill is a violation of the 10th amendment.

  •  
    Submitted by Milehimama on
    March 31, 2009 - 10:28am

    I have read HR 875 and I disagree with your conclusions. According to the resolution's definition of ""food establishment"" - my home is a food establishment.
    I blogged about it here:
    http://milehimama.blogspot.com/2009/03/bootlegging-beans.html

  •  
    Submitted by Pamela Miller on
    April 6, 2009 - 5:33am

    As per the following Definitions and Exclusions, it seems pretty clear to me that unless someone is making a profit out of serving food out of their homes, and as per the stated Exclusion of No. (14), the prevailing alarm about small home gardens and organic/family farms is completely unfounded.
    13) FOOD ESTABLISHMENT-
    (A) IN GENERAL- The term `food establishment' means a slaughterhouse (except those regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act), factory, warehouse, or facility owned or operated by a person located in any State that processes food or a facility that holds, stores, or transports food or food ingredients.
    (B) EXCLUSIONS- For the purposes of registration, the term `food establishment' does not include a food production facility as defined in paragraph (14), restaurant, other retail food establishment, nonprofit food establishment in which food is prepared for or served directly to the consumer, or fishing vessel (other than a fishing vessel engaged in processing, as that term is defined in section 123.3 of title 21, Code of Federal Regulations).
    (14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term `food production facility' means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.
    I would agree that HR 875 needs some refinement, but I also believe that the spirit of the Bill is to keep our food safe. Not everyone who produces and processes our food considers this to be a foregone conclusion. Good government should endeavor to keep us as safe as possible as we engage in the basic, life-sustaining activity of eating.

  •  
    Submitted by Sharon S. on
    April 6, 2009 - 12:47am

    When one writes a bill with such sweeping language that does not specifically exclude small farmers, roadside veggies stands, and home gardens it causes confusion and apprehension.
    So here is the question:
    Wouldn't this entire mess just be cleared up if simple language, you know the Keep It Simple Silly principle, was applied?
    How about:
    ""No foodstuffs produced by American Citizens on their own property for their own consumption, sharing with neighbors or to supplement other hungry individuals during these Economically Challenging times shall be covered by HR 875.""
    I mean - we expect results - let us tell the legislators what we want.
    Maybe that is too simple - but look at the situation we are in now by writing thousand page Bills.

  •  
    Submitted by Wes on
    August 18, 2009 - 11:34pm

    Mr. Mike Taylor is the new ""Food Czar"" that has been apointed by our new prez. He has worked for Monsanto for 18 years.

    Look it up.

    DONT TREAD ON ME

  •  
    Submitted by Wewess on
    August 19, 2009 - 10:52pm

    NaturalNews) If the Hippocrates maxim that ""food should be considered as our first medicine"" is right, we are on the brink of some really bad medicine. Recently, Obama selected as his ""Food Czar"", a former Monsanto executive and FDA manipulator, Michael Taylor.

    The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US Food Safety Czar. This is no joke"", says Jeffrey Smith about Michael Taylor's appointment in a recent Huffington Post article. Jeffrey Smith is the author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette. Perhaps that is exaggerated, but Michael Taylor's history with Monsanto and the FDA through the corporate/government revolving door is scary enough to provoke such an assertion.

    In the early 1990's, Michael Taylor was an attorney for Monsanto. He was parsing legalese and loopholes for the wonderful group that has brought the world DDT, PCB's, Agent Orange, NutraSweet (aspartame), bovine growth hormone, GMO foods, toxic pesticides and weed killers (Round Up), and terminator seeds.

    Michael passed through the revolving door connecting the corporate world and government more than once to ensure Monsanto's unabated success with pushing profitable poisons into the world's food supply.

    After functioning as a lead attorney with Monsanto, he managed to be appointed as the FDA Policy Chief. From that position he wrote a ""white paper"" (an authoritative official declaration) on the safety of bovine growth hormones. He ensured that dairy farmers using Monsanto's rbGH would not be required to label its milk products with the bovine growth hormone, which passes puss and toxins into the cow's milk.

    This white paper also gave Monsanto the ability to sue dairy farmers who labeled their products rbGH or growth hormone free, which Monsanto zealously pursued to financially destroy small dairy farmers. Monsanto Mike also oversaw the FDA ruling that dairy farmers who labeled their products as non rbGH needed to include that the FDA has determined there is no difference between milk from rbGH cows and non rbGH cows, which is a complete lie.

    Author/journalist Jeffrey Smith was tipped from a former Monsanto scientist that three colleagues at Monsanto, upon discovering the hazards of milk from rbGH injected cows, switched to organic dairy products. Some FDA scientists also knew of the dangers and the improper testing by Monsanto. But they don't make the final decisions. That's a function of the FDA Policy Chief, and that was Michael Taylor.

    The revolving door swooshed around and Michael Taylor landed back in Monsanto as vice president and chief lobbyist. Only months ago the door spun around once again and Michael Taylor became the senior advisor to the FDA commissioner. Good timing. From that position he could easily be promoted into Obama's cabinet as the Food Safety Czar.

    In case you may still doubt USA government collusion with Monsanto, here's an interesting item from ""Monsanto Buys Terminator Seeds Company"" by F. William Engdahl. ""In March 1998 the US Patent Office granted Patent No. 5,723,765 to Delta & Pine Land for a patent titled, Control of Plant Gene Expression. The patent is owned jointly, according to Delta & Pine's Security & Exchange Commission 10K filing, by D&PL and the United States of America, as represented by the Secretary of Agriculture.""

    The title ""Control of Plant Gene Expression"" refers to terminator seeds. These seeds make it impossible to save seeds from a harvest for replanting the next crop, an age old tradition for most farmers. This is a nail in the coffin of independent farming world wide, as once farmers begin using GMO seeds, they have to come back to buy again and again. Monsanto bought Delta & Pine Land (D & PL) in 2008, and now the USDA shares the terminator seed patent rights for royalties with Monsanto.

    When Big Business owns Government, it is called fascism. When Government owns Big Business, it is called communism. Does this mean we will now have both for our food supply?

    What This Means to Consumers

    It means this bill will have the FDA, along with the USDA, to act as minions directly instead of indirectly for Monsanto and other literally unhealthy corporations. The FDA would be linking up with other World Trade Organization (WTO) efforts to control farming world wide, while catering to the greedy ambitions of International Agribusiness, its related industries, and Processed Food Manufacturers. FDA, USDA, and WTO bureaucrats are sponsored and headed by the enemies of organic and wholesome food farming.

    The WTO is capable of legally levying ridiculous fines or mandating trade sanctions, including food sanctions, on regions that don't comply with WTO governed organizations, such as WHO (World Health Organization), the organization that is ushering in dangerous forced vaccinations for 195 member nations. The WTO is planning severe farming regulations that are expected to be world wide.

    Setting up a Food Czar from Monsanto with FDA connections via his revolving door career means that rbGH dairy, GMO's, terminator seeds and pesticides for crops will dominate in our food supply and prosper as ""safe"" while organic and wholesome foods will be declared dangerous and become a threatened species. The main stream media is already publicizing propaganda against organic food.

    You may want to start your own organic garden by yourself or with others soon. This is what the Cubans did in defense of all the trade sanctions imposed on them. And most of Cuba's crops are now organic!

    Activists don't seem to feel confident about the bill losing steam on its fast track to becoming law. They have decided the best that can be done is petitioning for rewording of key passages with the Senate to soften HR 2749 before it gets to the president for ratification.

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