Regulating food

Local food advocates are in a panic over Senate Bill S 510, which, they argue, devastate local food suppliers and put our whole food supply under the control of big chemical-using corporations like Monsanto.  Here is but one section of the bill that passed the House:

Section 101 -

Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to deem a food to be misbranded if it was manufactured, processed, packed, or held in a facility that is not registered. Declares that a facility under the FFDCA does not include private residences of individuals. Requires annual registration of food facilities, including food facilities that export food. Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to suspend the registration of any food facility for a violation of the FFDCA that could result in serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals. Sets forth procedures for such a registration suspension. Directs the Secretary to collect an annual fee for registration of a food facility to defray the costs of food safety activities. Terminates the authority to collect such fees after FY2014.

via H.R. 2749 – Summary: Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 (GovTrack.us)

Comments Steve Green:

S 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010,  may be the most dangerous bill in the history of the US.  It is to our food what the bailout was to our economy, only we can live without money.

“If accepted [S 510] would preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport, share, feed and eat each and every food that nature makes.  It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food and agricultural products of one’s choice. It will be unconstitutional and contrary to natural law or, if you like, the will of God.”  ~Dr. Shiv Chopra, Canada Health whistleblower

It is similar to what India faced with imposition of the salt tax during British rule, only S 510 extends control over all food in the US, violating the fundamental human right to food.

Monsanto says it has no interest in the bill and would not benefit from it, but Monsanto’s Michael Taylor who gave us rBGH and unregulated genetically modified (GM) organisms, appears to have designed it and is waiting as an appointed Food Czar to the FDA (a position unapproved by Congress) to administer the agency it would create — without judicial review — if it passes.  S 510 would give Monsanto unlimited power over all US seed, food supplements, food and farming.

HISTORY

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton introduced HACCP (Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Points) purportedly to deal with contamination in the meat industry.  Clinton’s HACCP delighted the offending corporate (World Trade Organization “WTO”) meat packers since it allowed them to inspect themselves, eliminated thousands of local food processors (with no history of contamination), and centralized meat into their control.  Monsanto promoted HACCP.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton, urged a powerful centralized food safety agency as part of her campaign for president.  Her advisor was Mark Penn, CEO of Burson Marsteller*, a giant PR firm representing Monsanto.  Clinton lost, but Clinton friends such as Rosa DeLauro, whose husband’s firm lists Monsanto as a progressive client and globalization as an area of expertise, introduced early versions of S 510.

He goes on in an apocalyptic vein. The purpose seems to be food safety, but he maintains that it will just put out of operation local farmers and growers who are innocent of contaminating food, and that it will just empower “registered” food corporations–who often are the guilty parties–and give them control over our whole food supply. Follow the links and see if you think he has a case.

HT:  Stewart Lundy

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Winston Smith

    One sometimes wearies of being the kid who cries out that the emperor has no clothes, but here it is once again: like the health care bill, this unprecedented legislative monstrosity has a lot less to do with public safety and welfare than it does with control.

    The practical upshot will be that small farmers will find the registration requirements burdensome, and will fall afoul of the new bureaucracy and be subect to crippling fines (and probably the occasional, well-publicized raid). Big producers like Monsanto will accept the new bureacratic hurdles as a cost of doing business.

    Big Agribusiness will have used its handmaiden, the government, as a weapon with which to eliminate its smaller competitors. Those Americans who are health-conscious and who want to buy and consume organic, pesticide-free, non-GMO food will be the losers.

    At least my backyard garden is (for now) exempt.

  • Winston Smith

    One sometimes wearies of being the kid who cries out that the emperor has no clothes, but here it is once again: like the health care bill, this unprecedented legislative monstrosity has a lot less to do with public safety and welfare than it does with control.

    The practical upshot will be that small farmers will find the registration requirements burdensome, and will fall afoul of the new bureaucracy and be subect to crippling fines (and probably the occasional, well-publicized raid). Big producers like Monsanto will accept the new bureacratic hurdles as a cost of doing business.

    Big Agribusiness will have used its handmaiden, the government, as a weapon with which to eliminate its smaller competitors. Those Americans who are health-conscious and who want to buy and consume organic, pesticide-free, non-GMO food will be the losers.

    At least my backyard garden is (for now) exempt.

  • Joe

    So what about the local farmers market? Does everyone who shows up to sell say beets have to be registered with the federal gov’t or face a finding that the beets were “misbranded.” There beets – what else could they be?

    What consequences flow from misbranding?

  • Joe

    So what about the local farmers market? Does everyone who shows up to sell say beets have to be registered with the federal gov’t or face a finding that the beets were “misbranded.” There beets – what else could they be?

    What consequences flow from misbranding?

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Just another step towards making us all law breakers and criminals.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Just another step towards making us all law breakers and criminals.

  • Dan Kempin

    This IS truly ominous.

    ” . . . preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport . . . food. . .” That, if true, is deserving of the “apocalyptic” epithet.

    People can live without health care. (They have been doing it for millenia.) Direct control of the food, though, is a brass ring in the nose of every citizen.

  • Dan Kempin

    This IS truly ominous.

    ” . . . preclude the public’s right to grow, own, trade, transport . . . food. . .” That, if true, is deserving of the “apocalyptic” epithet.

    People can live without health care. (They have been doing it for millenia.) Direct control of the food, though, is a brass ring in the nose of every citizen.

  • Louis

    Rant:

    Absolutely: The cabal that is the USDA, Monsanto, Con-Agra and their nefarious lobbyists wants to control it all, to get their filtyhy little fingers on as much $$ as possible. This is not about sociaslism, but about a ruling oligarchy raising their own fascist empires. they have been threatened by the small farmer / farmers market / localvore movement, and this is their response.

    Anyone who has read Michael Pollan / Eric Sclosser / Bill McKibben / Slow Food publications or whpo has seen the very recent Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolutions will be able to connect the dots.

    True Liberals, paleocons, libertarians, distributivsts – all these will resist this nonsense. This is not a left/right issue. This is freedom or fascism.

    End of Rant.

  • Louis

    Rant:

    Absolutely: The cabal that is the USDA, Monsanto, Con-Agra and their nefarious lobbyists wants to control it all, to get their filtyhy little fingers on as much $$ as possible. This is not about sociaslism, but about a ruling oligarchy raising their own fascist empires. they have been threatened by the small farmer / farmers market / localvore movement, and this is their response.

    Anyone who has read Michael Pollan / Eric Sclosser / Bill McKibben / Slow Food publications or whpo has seen the very recent Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolutions will be able to connect the dots.

    True Liberals, paleocons, libertarians, distributivsts – all these will resist this nonsense. This is not a left/right issue. This is freedom or fascism.

    End of Rant.

  • Brenda

    ‘Food inc’ was shown on one of our PBS stations a few weeks ago… many people, no doubt would have been very upset about some of the treatment of the animals we consume and rightly so… but I couldn’t help focusing on the horrible accounts of farmers and growers put out of business by the agribiz behmoth. It turned my stomach to see the accounts of farmers loosing all because they won’t bow the knee to Monsanto. Chilling to freedom minded citizens.

  • Brenda

    ‘Food inc’ was shown on one of our PBS stations a few weeks ago… many people, no doubt would have been very upset about some of the treatment of the animals we consume and rightly so… but I couldn’t help focusing on the horrible accounts of farmers and growers put out of business by the agribiz behmoth. It turned my stomach to see the accounts of farmers loosing all because they won’t bow the knee to Monsanto. Chilling to freedom minded citizens.

  • Joe

    People – a little balance here. This bill seems like a really bad idea and a horrible union between gov’t and business (btw- its not fascism, its mercantilism). But a little balance in our reaction to the big agri businesses. I don’t personally care much for them and I generally buy local, but the advances in farming and food production they pioneered have pretty much eradicated starvation as a cause of death in the United States. For all of there worts, they should get credit for that.

  • Joe

    People – a little balance here. This bill seems like a really bad idea and a horrible union between gov’t and business (btw- its not fascism, its mercantilism). But a little balance in our reaction to the big agri businesses. I don’t personally care much for them and I generally buy local, but the advances in farming and food production they pioneered have pretty much eradicated starvation as a cause of death in the United States. For all of there worts, they should get credit for that.

  • Louis

    Joe – stop drinking the cool-aid. Big agriculture (which doesn’t mean big farmers, btw) in no way has improved anything. Better farming methods has helped, but, for instance at the lb/acre level, Joe Salatin of Virginia has some of the highest producing farmland in the US. And he is the absolute antithesis of big agriculture. What big agriculture has done has is to effectivel reduce most of the US’s food crop to two commodities: Corn and soya. These they can manipulate at will. Plus with grants and lobbying $$ they have their fingers in research dept’s, and government. That is why it is virtually impossible to get the USDA (and the FDA) to do anything outside of these corporate interests.

  • Louis

    Joe – stop drinking the cool-aid. Big agriculture (which doesn’t mean big farmers, btw) in no way has improved anything. Better farming methods has helped, but, for instance at the lb/acre level, Joe Salatin of Virginia has some of the highest producing farmland in the US. And he is the absolute antithesis of big agriculture. What big agriculture has done has is to effectivel reduce most of the US’s food crop to two commodities: Corn and soya. These they can manipulate at will. Plus with grants and lobbying $$ they have their fingers in research dept’s, and government. That is why it is virtually impossible to get the USDA (and the FDA) to do anything outside of these corporate interests.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    People should be far more outraged about this than about TARP or healthcare. Past and present legislation already dictates that we do not have access to the healthiest foods. I am reminded of the beef company that wanted to sell gourmet beef, and test every cow for mad-cow disease. The FDA shot them down, insisting that they test no more than the industry standard. Sure, a Food Police could do good, but we have a track record of using the FDA to support big biz and big gov.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    People should be far more outraged about this than about TARP or healthcare. Past and present legislation already dictates that we do not have access to the healthiest foods. I am reminded of the beef company that wanted to sell gourmet beef, and test every cow for mad-cow disease. The FDA shot them down, insisting that they test no more than the industry standard. Sure, a Food Police could do good, but we have a track record of using the FDA to support big biz and big gov.

  • Tom Hering

    Maybe it’s not the small farmers that worry big agriculture. Maybe it’s other big businesses.

  • Tom Hering

    Maybe it’s not the small farmers that worry big agriculture. Maybe it’s other big businesses.

  • sg

    The first thing I want to know is whether enforcement requires they hire more public employees who can’t be fired and aren’t accountable, but who will get government pensions and benefits.

  • sg

    The first thing I want to know is whether enforcement requires they hire more public employees who can’t be fired and aren’t accountable, but who will get government pensions and benefits.

  • DonS

    Joe @ 2: I want to explore the local farmers market angle a bit more. Theoretically, the feds only have the right to regulate interstate or foreign commerce. So, if a farmer grows locally and sells in the same state, is he/she regulated by the feds? I honestly don’t know the answer to this, but perhaps someone else does. That would be a fight worth having.

    As for the larger impact of this bill, maybe it will cause liberals to wake up a bit as to the effect of runaway government regulation. Though it often seems like something which reins in those nasty, greedy businesses, most often it is the result of an unholy cabal of big government and big business, erecting every higher barriers of entry for a particular market to keep smaller competitors out. Now, it’s affecting your organic and natural food. Learn from this — government isn’t always the good guy and most certainly isn’t always the answer to every problem.

  • DonS

    Joe @ 2: I want to explore the local farmers market angle a bit more. Theoretically, the feds only have the right to regulate interstate or foreign commerce. So, if a farmer grows locally and sells in the same state, is he/she regulated by the feds? I honestly don’t know the answer to this, but perhaps someone else does. That would be a fight worth having.

    As for the larger impact of this bill, maybe it will cause liberals to wake up a bit as to the effect of runaway government regulation. Though it often seems like something which reins in those nasty, greedy businesses, most often it is the result of an unholy cabal of big government and big business, erecting every higher barriers of entry for a particular market to keep smaller competitors out. Now, it’s affecting your organic and natural food. Learn from this — government isn’t always the good guy and most certainly isn’t always the answer to every problem.

  • Anon

    Forget the imaginary food police for a moment. Has anyone noticed what happened to Nashville this weekend? The city is in ruins, thousands have been displaced, 28 are dead and the number is rising. According to the TVA, its a 1000 year flood and … no one cares…

  • Anon

    Forget the imaginary food police for a moment. Has anyone noticed what happened to Nashville this weekend? The city is in ruins, thousands have been displaced, 28 are dead and the number is rising. According to the TVA, its a 1000 year flood and … no one cares…

  • Ryan

    This reminds of a local law that has caused the ban of church ladies and societies selling fund raising pies at local events (double crust fruit ones of course – ie safe to set out) because they are not baked in ‘certified’ kitchens.

    I have ate in uncertified kitchens all my life, still doing fine.

    To be fair though I do appreciate some food and drug regulation – read about the meat packing industry, in fact any food related industry and big cities, around the turn of the twentieth century and you will see the need for regulation.

  • Ryan

    This reminds of a local law that has caused the ban of church ladies and societies selling fund raising pies at local events (double crust fruit ones of course – ie safe to set out) because they are not baked in ‘certified’ kitchens.

    I have ate in uncertified kitchens all my life, still doing fine.

    To be fair though I do appreciate some food and drug regulation – read about the meat packing industry, in fact any food related industry and big cities, around the turn of the twentieth century and you will see the need for regulation.

  • Winston Smith

    DonS @ 12:

    See Gonzalez v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005)

    http://www4.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZS.html

    Intrastate commerce is interstate commerce for purposes of the commerce clause.

  • Winston Smith

    DonS @ 12:

    See Gonzalez v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005)

    http://www4.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZS.html

    Intrastate commerce is interstate commerce for purposes of the commerce clause.

  • Joe

    I was going to go with Wickers v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942) (from Wiki):

    A farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was growing wheat to feed his chickens. The U.S. government had imposed limits on wheat production based on acreage owned by a farmer, in order to drive up wheat prices during the Great Depression, and Filburn was growing more than the limits permitted. Filburn was ordered to destroy his crops and pay a fine, even though he was producing the excess wheat for his own use and had no intention of selling it.

    The Supreme Court, interpreting the United States Constitution’s Commerce Clause (which permits the United States Congress to “regulate Commerce . . . among the several States”) decided that, because Filburn’s wheat growing activities reduced the amount of wheat he would buy for chicken feed on the open market, and because wheat was traded nationally, Filburn’s production of more wheat than he was allotted was affecting interstate commerce, and so could be regulated by the federal government.

  • Joe

    I was going to go with Wickers v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942) (from Wiki):

    A farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was growing wheat to feed his chickens. The U.S. government had imposed limits on wheat production based on acreage owned by a farmer, in order to drive up wheat prices during the Great Depression, and Filburn was growing more than the limits permitted. Filburn was ordered to destroy his crops and pay a fine, even though he was producing the excess wheat for his own use and had no intention of selling it.

    The Supreme Court, interpreting the United States Constitution’s Commerce Clause (which permits the United States Congress to “regulate Commerce . . . among the several States”) decided that, because Filburn’s wheat growing activities reduced the amount of wheat he would buy for chicken feed on the open market, and because wheat was traded nationally, Filburn’s production of more wheat than he was allotted was affecting interstate commerce, and so could be regulated by the federal government.

  • Joe

    And Louis – I don’t drink the Kool Aid, Its just that I am smart enough to see that there are very often good and bad at play in many things.

  • Joe

    And Louis – I don’t drink the Kool Aid, Its just that I am smart enough to see that there are very often good and bad at play in many things.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    It would surely be possible to have a law that says that food sold must be safe, without also requiring food sellers to be registered and to follow specific methods of ensuring that safety that only big companies could comply with.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    It would surely be possible to have a law that says that food sold must be safe, without also requiring food sellers to be registered and to follow specific methods of ensuring that safety that only big companies could comply with.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    And thanks for that legal precedent about the farmer and his chickens, Joe.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    And thanks for that legal precedent about the farmer and his chickens, Joe.

  • http://spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    This is a pretty good example of the sort of things Washington DC should not be involved in.

    This is another milestone on the path from liberty to serfdom.

  • http://spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    This is a pretty good example of the sort of things Washington DC should not be involved in.

    This is another milestone on the path from liberty to serfdom.

  • DonS

    Winston @ 15 & Joe @ 16: Thank you both for your cites. Joe, the Wickers case is actually prominently discussed on the first page of the Gonzalez decision. I suspected as much. The Commerce Clause is pretty much a dead letter when Wickers holds that the effect of a farmer growing wheat for his own consumption is significant enough to effect national commerce and thus invoke federal jurisdiction. As usual, I’m with Clarence Thomas in his dissent in Gonzales, and if we are to ever hope to roll back the federal government’s powers to anything approaching the limited government our Founders intended, we are going to have to return to that idea of what constitutes interstate commerce.

  • DonS

    Winston @ 15 & Joe @ 16: Thank you both for your cites. Joe, the Wickers case is actually prominently discussed on the first page of the Gonzalez decision. I suspected as much. The Commerce Clause is pretty much a dead letter when Wickers holds that the effect of a farmer growing wheat for his own consumption is significant enough to effect national commerce and thus invoke federal jurisdiction. As usual, I’m with Clarence Thomas in his dissent in Gonzales, and if we are to ever hope to roll back the federal government’s powers to anything approaching the limited government our Founders intended, we are going to have to return to that idea of what constitutes interstate commerce.

  • Louis

    And in Canada, we recently had this case: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/01/21/raw-milk-trial.html

  • Louis

    And in Canada, we recently had this case: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/01/21/raw-milk-trial.html

  • saddler

    Louis, it sounds as though you are a fan of the locally grown, locally consumed idea. I was raised on a small farm and have been a small farmer/rancher who has dabbled in direct marketing. I’m a fan as well. But I remain sceptical as to whether the Joel Salatin model would feed 350 million Americans and a bunch of foreign folks as well. Salatin is a very sharp operator, but he also has a few other factors in his favor. He enjoys a relatively long growing season with lots of rain. Here in Idaho, we just woke up to three inches of new snow this morning, and our total annual rainfall is below ten inches/year by contrast. High productivity/acre here (and in much of the country) is tough to acheive because of the quality of the soil and climate.
    I judged by your comments that the question you might be asking is: “If this guy in Virginia can do it, why can’t the rest of these guys?”

    Having said all this though, I think we need more Joel Salatins throughout the country.

    And shame on our government if they make it harder on folks like him.

    For now I’m afraid that we are stuck with the likes of Monsanto, Conagra etc. to feed the masses. Another note: Salatin’s customers are not the lower middle class who struggle to pay their bills. His are the upper middle class who can afford to pay a premium for their groceries and also have the social conscience to “Buy Local”.

  • saddler

    Louis, it sounds as though you are a fan of the locally grown, locally consumed idea. I was raised on a small farm and have been a small farmer/rancher who has dabbled in direct marketing. I’m a fan as well. But I remain sceptical as to whether the Joel Salatin model would feed 350 million Americans and a bunch of foreign folks as well. Salatin is a very sharp operator, but he also has a few other factors in his favor. He enjoys a relatively long growing season with lots of rain. Here in Idaho, we just woke up to three inches of new snow this morning, and our total annual rainfall is below ten inches/year by contrast. High productivity/acre here (and in much of the country) is tough to acheive because of the quality of the soil and climate.
    I judged by your comments that the question you might be asking is: “If this guy in Virginia can do it, why can’t the rest of these guys?”

    Having said all this though, I think we need more Joel Salatins throughout the country.

    And shame on our government if they make it harder on folks like him.

    For now I’m afraid that we are stuck with the likes of Monsanto, Conagra etc. to feed the masses. Another note: Salatin’s customers are not the lower middle class who struggle to pay their bills. His are the upper middle class who can afford to pay a premium for their groceries and also have the social conscience to “Buy Local”.


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