Monday, December 20, 2010

Food Safety Bill Passes Senate (Again). Not A Good Thing.

Last night, the US Senate unexpectedly passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, a bill granting the FDA broad new powers to regulate food. It is expected to cost $1.4 billion over the next four years, and require the hiring of thousands of new FDA inspectors (link). The bill now goes back to the House, which is almost certain to pass it, and on to the President, who will sign it.

Aside from its expense, the main problem with the bill is that the FDA's technological vision of "food safety" is at odds with the idea of "real food" (link).

The only reason the bill isn't a COMPLETE disaster is that it contains some exceptions for very small food producers.

Regardless, it is a step in the wrong direction.

Why did this bill pass now, when it seemed like it was stuck in the legislature? Slate speculates:
The best theory I've heard is that key Republicans…decided that it wasn't worth keeping the Senate in session past Christmas to debate it. It's a Christmas miracle, if the key characteristics of Christmas are self-interest and fatigue.
At least as likely an explanation as any other.

It's unlikely to get killed in the House, but if you would like to make your voice heard, please contact your representative.


Nourishing Nancy said...

Hey Alex,
I just wrote something about it too. I agree that the small amendment will slightly help small, very small, farmers, but I shudder to think of the effects on raw milk. Any thoughts?

Alex Lewin said...

Here's one (pessimistic) take on it:

Christine Wasankari said...

This is a sad day indeed. I've spread the word all over the place to get peopple to see how horrible this can get and they seem to think that it doesn't really effect them. They can just go down the road to the local farmers market. I've maintained it is exactly those folks who will be affected by this and consequently those who buy from them. Still, I get the dead look, like they can't connect the dots. Probably all the processed crap they have been consuming over the course of their lifetime. Disheartening.

We bought 2 little girl milking goats and a buck two years ago for our own use. We now have three milkers (fingers crossed) by spring plus meat in the freezer. (sorry, boys lives are always headed for the freezer) Next year we hope to have at least 4 milkers. That would be all my land can sustain in an ongoing basis and all I can maintain when I have to go out and milk twice a day. But I am SO glad we made the decision to do this.

We never saw the Draconian measures this government was going to start implementing. We never intended to bring any of this milk, cheese and yogurt to market. We have however, had a real interest from folks as to what we are doing and fully intend to "barter" on a larger scale than we did last year.

I hope some of these farms that make a living at this will consider doing the same. I know that is easier said than done when you are a mid sized to larger outfit...but I do hope they can do something. We also run a rabbitry of 50-100 rabbits, or about a litter a week that we process. Chickens too, a dozen eggs a day on average. This is all for our own usage by and large, but we do sell eggs on occasion and some rabbit meat as well as milk and cheese. Very small potatoes and much more on the line of a bartering system with us. But I am VERY thankful we had the foresight 3 years ago to start all of this up.

Those who don't have what we have an no way to get it saddens me greatly.

Thank you very much for all of your advocacy, time and energy on this issue Alex. We have to keep it up.

Gigi Berardi said...

Thanks for your post -- onward. Gigi and

Alex Lewin said...

Christine, I admire you for taking back control over your food destiny. As you say, it is sad that everyone doesn't have the same access that you have. Hopefully the trend will shift back in the other direction.

Alex Lewin said...

Gigi, thanks for the links to your posts. Your blog is great! And I love the picture of you with Carlo Petrini. I saw him speak a few months ago in Boston--he was great. Have you read _Manifestos on the Future of Food and Seed_? Great collection of essays, including one by him.