I was on MySpace yesterday for the first time in a few days, and decided to go through my recently posted bulletins to see what chain letters & surveys had been recently added to the queue.  I saw a series of bulletins with the titles like, “SAVE ORGANIC FARMING!!” and, “The US Government is trying to poison us!!!”  Naturally I was curious as I personally am a huge proponent of organic farming and I tend to find conspiracy theories hilarious.

I was surprised to read that the bulletins were about a bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives on February 4, 2009 as the, “Food Saftey Modernization Act of 2009.”  The summary of the bill (according to govtrack.us) is as follows:

“To establish the Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services 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, and for other purposes.”

You can find the full text of the bill here (click “full text”):  http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-875

People are opposing the bill for several reasons one being that it lumps small farmers in the same category as large food producing enterprises, and holds them (small farmers) to higher, more costly standards.  Many fear this will put lots of local farmers out of business as the costs for new equipment, inspection, and preservation (i.e: chemicals) will be exorbitant.

The second opposition comes from the argument that the Representative who introduced the bill, Rosa DeLaureo, is married to Stanley Greenburg a high-up at Monsanto.  Monsanto, in case you don’t know, is the global giant when it comes to pesticides, seed production, etc.  Many feel that they stand to gain a lot (market share, profits, land, etc.) if this bill passes.  Obviously this is where the “conspiracy theory” argument comes to play.  I think that it is sketchy that the main sponsor of this legislation happens to be married to a Monsanto executive, but its not my main issue with the bill as there are 41 other cosponsors who must think its a good idea as well.

The recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses (think Peanuts, Spinach, and their links to Salmonella) are forcing law makers to create laws with stricter standards.  However, I’ve never gotten sick from local organic food.  Also, the origins of many of these illnesses come from large food processing plants and not, “the little guys.”  Secondly, being an IR major exposed me to many lovely documentaries about the world’s food supply and Monsanto in general.  I personally get sick to my stomach thinking that my grilled chicken breast could have come from a chicken that had 10 drumsticks, and I hate having to scrub my cucumbers for 10 minutes trying to get the wax preservative off of the skin before I can eat them.

My maternal grandmother battled breast & skin cancer off and on for nearly 15 years.  She didn’t drink or smoke, and her doctors believed that her disease appeared as a result from estrogen therapy when she went through menopause in the 1970’s.  When her disease resurfaced in early 2001 she was adamant that she’d beat it again.  Unfortunately this time the chemo and radiation didn’t make her cancer count go down and Grandma was getting weaker by the day.  My mother began looking for other alternatives to chemotherapy and among them stumbled on the China Study (Mom, help me out if I have the wrong name here) which was written by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a natural healer based out of the North Bay.

His work theorized that its the chemicals and pesticides in our foods & personal care products that put us at an elevated risks for diseases like cancer.  At this point we had nothing left to lose, so my Mom and Aunt decided to try my Grandma out on this new diet.  I’ll spare you the details but she began drinking juices made out of raw, organic foods.  And after a few months we did see her cancer count go down.  Unfortunately, Grandma was tired of fighting the disease and drinking juice.  She made the personal decision not to continue with the special juice diet or the chemotherapy, and we lost her to breast cancer in October of 2003.

Since then my parents have taken up organic farming and have produced the freshest produce that I’ve ever tasted.  I’ve made more of a conscious effort to eat as pesticide-free as possible, and to purchase from local vendors if I can.  I’ll admit that I don’t drive out of my way to the Farmer’s Market, but I do try to pay attention to where my food comes from once I’m in a store.  One of my best friends revealed to me last year that since making the switch to only eating organic and using organic products, her and her boyfriend both feel cleaner and more healthy.

IN CONCLUSION… I do feel that the severity of the bill has been blown out of proportion by radical groups (there’s no evidence that shows warrantless searches or GPS monitoring equipment for animals, etc.), but had it not been I doubt I would have heard of it.  I’m glad that I am now aware of this piece of legislation, and do not support it.

I do feel that their needs to be stricter food safety regulations, but that small farmers should not be included in the same category as large enterprises.  Its like this:  your local cupcakery vs. Hostess… if they’re put in the same category who do you think wins?  Especially with the state of our economy we do not need any more monopolies, and local farming helps the economy if only at a micro level.  What do you think?

As it stands I highly doubt that HR 875 will go much farther without some serious revision, but just in case I still decided to sign a petition against it.  You can sign the same one here if you’re interested:  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Food-farms-seeds-HR875

SOURCES:

1) Govtrack.us.  “H.R.875: Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2009.”  5 February 2009. <http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-875&gt;

1.5)  US Library of Congress.  “Search: H.R. 875.”  Accessed 21 April 2009.  <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:h875:&gt;

2)  Gubbins, Teresa.  “Chefs and Farmers talk ‘buying local’ at Dallas Farmer’s Market confab.”  20 April 2009.  <http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2009/apr/20/dallas-farmers-market-friends-brings-together-chef/&gt;

3)  Mertzlufft, Amy.  “One Size Fits All Farm Policy Unwise.” 19 April 2009. <http://www.gainesville.com/article/20090419/NEWS/904199967/-1/MAGAZINE?Title=Amy-Mertzlufft-One-size-fits-all-farm-policy-unwise&gt;

4) Astyk, Sharon.  “Why I’m Not Panicking About HR 875.” 14 March 2009. <http://sharonastyk.com/2009/03/14/why-im-not-panicking-about-hr-875/&gt;

5) The China Study.  <http://www.thechinastudy.com&gt;

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