Further comments on Bill HR 875 or the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009.

We had this response from Tim Marshall, a person whom we respect for his

vast experience with the organic industry. It is cautionary.

“There has been a barrage of emails lately warning about a Bill before the US Congress known as HR 875 or  the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009.

The bill claims to seek improvements to food safety and proposes increased regulation.

Critics of the bill fear that food safety is being used as a Trojan horse to create a more favorable business climate for corporate agriculture.

Emails have suggested that home gardening and seed-saving will be banned and that the bill is sponsored by Monsanto.

Most of these interpretations do not sit well with the facts of the Bill as I read it or as it has been reported by responsible organic press in the USA such as the Organic Consumers Association.

There is, for instance, no direct involvement of Monsanto in the Bill, and it does not seek to ban home vegetable production or regulate seed-saving.

Another Bill, HR 759 does include proposals to extend traceability record keeping requirements applying to farms, food processors and restaurants and to establish production standards for fruits and vegetables, so-called “Good Agricultural Practices.”

These Good Agriculture Practices are mostly written in a way that makes them applicable to larger and corporate farms although even this Bill does not claim to end small-scale production.

Both of the bills do aim to make factory-farmed food safer so we can avoid E.coli in spinach and to regulate other aspects of the food industry, and probably include regulations that most of us would support. There is an issue if small and family-owned farms are required to comply as there are far fewer problems associated with them, but high costs of compliance.

I don’t want to support the bills, but it is important to realise that the internet, while a fantastic and useful tool, can also easily be used to spread misinformation.

People who would like to follow news on the proposed regulation (and other organic food and agriculture developments in the USA) can visit http://www.organicconsumers.org and subscribe to a free email newsletter.”

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