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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What are the strongest arguments for the bill?Skip to next paragraph
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Many Americans believe inspection reform is needed to protect the national food supply. "Senators often talk about the importance of addressing so-called 'kitchen table' issues – the practical, everyday concerns of working Americans," Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa, a co-sponsor, has said. "Well, food safety is literally a 'kitchen table' issue."
Comprehensive reform hasn't taken place for years, Senator Harkin notes. "It couldn’t be more urgent or absurdly overdue," he said. "It is shocking to think that the last comprehensive overhaul of America’s food-safety system was in 1938 – more than seven decades ago."
What are the strongest arguments against the bill?
According to critics, it will create higher compliance costs for smaller producers, putting them at a competitive disadvantage against corporate farmers and producers who can more easily absorb costs, fees, and possible fines.
That's not the only type of expense. The legislation would cost the US government a total of $1.4 billion over four years, says Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma. One result could be higher food costs, some worry.
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.
"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.