Food safety bill 101: What are the facts and myths?
The Food Safety Modernization Act has riled everyone from liberal 'locavores' to conservative tea party groups. Here's a rundown of what's really in the Senate bill.
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Others see the law as too sweeping and say it gives Washington bureaucrats, including the Department of Homeland Security, too much discretion over citizens who want to exercise control over their family's food supply.Skip to next paragraph
"You may be disposed to embrace a genetically modified, enhanced, and altered food chain, but for those of us who eat our foods unadulterated, raised naturally, and without benefit of the federal government mandating what we can and can't eat, SB 510 is one more giant step toward consolidating total power over the lives of free citizens," writes Michael Geer on the American Thinker blog.
Would SB 510 put America's cornucopia under the control of a "globalist mafia" led by the World Trade Organization?
No. Some people have been concerned that the bill would give international groups more power over food matters in the US. The bill does state that the US will not knowingly break any existing agreements with the World Trade Organization, but it doesn't cede any inspection or enforcement powers to international agencies.
Can I still share (and sell) vegetables from my garden?
Yes. Farmers who sell most of their harvest directly to restaurants, food co-ops, farm stands, and farmers' markets wouldn't have to register with the FDA under SB 510. And they wouldn't be subject to the regulations in the legislation. But such farmers would still have to abide by current state laws.
Even though the bill in essence orders the FDA to be nice to local food producers, some farm groups say it ultimately doesn't place enough limits on the agency's power over small farmers and even backyard gardeners.
Is Uncle Sam trying to seize control of the US seed bank?
SB 510 does require inspection of seed-cleaning machines – a provision that could make it harder for farmers to collect their own seeds and could benefit large seed producers like Monsanto. But the law does not specifically restrict the ability of Americans to collect and store seeds for their own purposes.
If it is harder for farmers to collect their own seeds, that could mean more dominance of genetically modified seed stocks, which farmers have to relicense every year. "Once you use that GMO seed the traditional genetic diversity of the seed bank dwindles and is lost," Kimberly Labno of the Penn State Cooperative Extension told the Phawker.com blog.
Who supports SB 510? Who's against it?
Supporters include General Mills, Kraft Foods, Monsanto, and the National Association of Manufacturers. Opponents include the American Grassfed Association, Family Farm Defenders, and the Small Farms Conservancy. The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, which represents smaller farmers, has backed the bill.
Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation," and Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," support the law in its current form. "SB 510 is the most important food safety legislation in a generation," they wrote recently. "The Tester Amendment will make it even more effective, strengthening food safety rules while protecting small farmers and producers. We both think this is the right thing to do."