USA moving to ban organic food

Making naturally grown food illegal sounds insane, yeah.

Apparently the US is currently ramming through bill HR 875: Food Safety Modernization
Act of 2009
(full text here). The gist seems to be an effort to “improve security of food” by requiring more or less every food producer (including organic farms and family gardens, seemingly) defined as

(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

who will be required to

(2) require each food production facility to have a written food safety plan that describes the likely hazards and preventive controls implemented to address those hazards;

(3) include, with respect to growing, harvesting, sorting, and storage operations, minimum standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment, and water;

the gist of which seems to mean enforced minimum standards of spraying, fertilizer, etc. The bill is pushed by agribusiness/Monsanto etc, so this seems likely to mean an end to organics.

Violation of anything is punishable by up to 1,000,000 per offense, per day.

That is just from a quick skim of the law. A farmer blogs here. Originally got sent an email linking to this alarmist youtubey thing. There seem to be a bunch more which are more reasonable and go into detail.

Sounds like it is being pushed through in two weeks with no discussion.

If this is scaring the shit out of you, a one page action webby thing is here to help people contact newspapers, representatives, etc. May well be worth spreading to any Americanos you know, as if it happens there, the pressure for it to happen elsewhere (like here) will grow.

All information provided as is, where is. Check it out, spread, act, as appropriate.

12 Responses to “USA moving to ban organic food”

  1.   tatjna
    March 26th, 2009 | 1:10 pm

    I’m no expert on this stuff but my experience of standards related to food safety around agrichemicals (sprays, fert etc) on farms in New Zealand (yes, we have them), are more about ensuring that withholding periods on sprays and drenches are adhered to – ie 7 days before grazing after spraying your paddocks with Roundup (a Monsanto product), 28 days after drenching your sheep with Ivermectin before sending to the works, no shearing of wool or slaughtering of animals within 6 weeks of dipping with fly repellent, no worksing of cattle within x time of vaccination with a live vaccine, etc. Similar withholding periods apply to horticultural sprays such as the Paraquat used on kumara plants prior to harvest and also to fertilisers such as NRich.

    It’s about avoiding the chemicals farmers use potentially getting into the food supply rather than forcing farmers to use certain chemicals, and doesn’t affect organic farmers because they don’t use these products.

    Standards of hygiene etc also make a lot of sense to me.

    I have no idea if this is what they are up to in the states, but if they are then it’s bloody well about time, and I can see why Monsanto would be pushing that given that without those controls they are potentially in line for lawsuits should someone’s kid ingest Roundup through some untraceable steak.

    If it’s about something other than this (ie telling farmers they must use X product as a minimum standard), then WTF?

    And I agree that a consultation period is imperative before pushing a law through, no matter what the law.

  2.   bekitty
    March 26th, 2009 | 2:12 pm

    What Tats said.

    Plus, it would be nice if the US actually got minimum standards for organic produce. Right now, they don’t – which means that anything can call itself “organic” and get away with it. “Organic” is a meaningless label in some states as a result, much like “low-fat” or “lite”.

  3.   cal
    March 26th, 2009 | 7:39 pm

    What they said.

  4.   Joey
    March 27th, 2009 | 6:42 am

    PWNED.

    Tats is right, you’ve misread this.

  5.   Scott C
    March 27th, 2009 | 7:59 am

    Actually I think there is more too it than Tat has hit upon – I started doing a post about it but last time I posted about work stuff I got a bit of a talking too from management.

    Billy – I’ll fire you an email a bit later about this.

  6.   Administrator
    March 27th, 2009 | 10:32 am

    It is a complex matter; the trick is in of the application of the law.

    from the Organic Consumers Association:

    “HR 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, is a limited-vision attempt by moderate Democrats and Republicans to craft food safety legislation to address the out-of-control filth and contamination that are inherent in our industrialized, now globalized, “profit-at-any-cost” food system. This being said, OCA does not support HR 875 in its present form, given the fact that, if the bill’s regulations were applied in a one-size-fits-all manner to certified organic and farm-to-consumer operations, it could have a devastating impact on small farmers, especially raw milk producers who are already unfairly targeted by state food-safety regulators. Although the OCA deems this bill somewhat well-intentioned, we are calling on Congress to focus its attention on the real threats to food safety: globalized food sourcing from nations such as China where food safety is a travesty and domestic industrial-scale and factory farms whose collateral damage includes pesticide and antibiotic-tainted food, mad cow disease, E.coli contamination and salmonella poisoning. And, of course, Congress and the Obama Administration need to support a massive transition to organic farming practices.”

  7.   Scott C
    March 27th, 2009 | 5:32 pm

    Both of you are right – the food safety controls are well worth while, and the concerns about the bill being a “one size fit’s all solution” which won’t work is also right.

    NZ is actually quite a good example of how to “generally” get these things right. As Tat said the use of agrichemicals needs to be done in an appropriate manner – within NZ there are two agencies which look at the impact (in a policy setting). New Zealand Food Safety Authority (and in particular the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines group) are involved in assessing the impacts on products when used on crop’s and animals which are intended as (or may become) part of the human food chain. The Environmental Risk Management Authority look at the impact of those chemicals on the environment and individuals who are involved in the use and management of them. In NZ the relevant document is New Zealand Standard 8409 – The Management of Agrichemicals – which covers the practical requirements for working with the products in a safe manner (a really interesting reading if you’re into that sort of thing).

    Two agencies, looking at two different (yet related) risk profiles and coming up with a combined set of requirements which (hopefully) safe guards the human food chains, the people who are operating in the production environments and working with the products, and last but not least the environment and the surrounding inhabitants.

    The whole point of that is being a small country we have the freedom to look more closely at specific circumstances and set controls based on a single products hazards and it’s effects – which allows small producers to flourish if they manage their operations well. The US on the other hand don’t have the same ability to go into the same level of depth as we do – and that’s actually a huge danger for (as is quoted above) the small producers which work with niche (or gourmet) products. Regulation is not a precision instrument – it’s a blunt stick (often with a nail shoved through it) and mandating certain controls for all producers is simply stupid – even more so if the smaller producers can show that they manage the risks which are involved in working with their products (such as raw milk based cheese’s). It’s about allowing people to demonstrate that they understand the risk’s involved and are managing them to an appropriate level and not having to force people to use one specific solution.

    On the personal side of things I’m pretty much a fan of anything that’s grown as naturally as possible – and there are many natural ways to manage the different problems encountered in growing food. It would be a huge shame if this went through (in it’s current form) simply because it will shut down many small producers (or make what they do indistinguishable from the big players). I did take the time to read through a good 1/2 to 2/3 of the bill – and I thought our legislation was complex!).

    Whoa! Huge straight after work on a Friday post!

  8.   Scott C
    March 27th, 2009 | 5:35 pm

    Both of you are right – the food safety controls are well worth while, and the concerns about the bill being a “one size fit’s all solution” which won’t work is also right.

    NZ is actually quite a good example of how to “generally” get these things right. As Tat said the use of agrichemicals needs to be done in an appropriate manner – within NZ there are two agencies which look at the impact (in a policy setting). New Zealand Food Safety Authority (and in particular the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines group) are involved in assessing the impacts on products when used on crop’s and animals which are intended as (or may become) part of the human food chain. The Environmental Risk Management Authority look at the impact of those chemicals on the environment and individuals who are involved in the use and management of them. In NZ the relevant document is New Zealand Standard 8409 – The Management of Agrichemicals – which covers the practical requirements for working with the products in a safe manner (a really interesting reading if you’re into that sort of thing).

    Two agencies, looking at two different (yet related) risk profiles and coming up with a combined set of requirements which (hopefully) safe guards the human food chains, the people who are operating in the production environments and working with the products, and last but not least the environment and the surrounding inhabitants.

    The whole point of that is being a small country we have the freedom to look more closely at specific circumstances and set controls based on a single products hazards and it’s effects – which allows small producers to flourish if they manage their operations well. The US on the other hand don’t have the same ability to go into the same level of depth as we do – and that’s actually a huge danger for (as is quoted above) the small producers which work with niche (or gourmet) products. Regulation is not a precision instrument – it’s a blunt stick (often with a nail shoved through it) and mandating certain controls for all producers is simply stupid – even more so if the smaller producers can show that they manage the risks which are involved in working with their products (such as raw milk based cheese’s). It’s about allowing people to demonstrate that they understand the risk’s involved and are managing them to an appropriate level and not having to force people to use one specific solution.

    On the personal side of things I’m pretty much a fan of anything that’s grown as naturally as possible – and there are many natural ways to manage the different problems encountered in growing food. It would be a huge shame if this went through (in it’s current form) simply because it will shut down many small producers (or make what they do indistinguishable from the big players). I did take the time to read through a good 1/2 to 2/3 of the bill – and I thought our legislation was complex!).

    Whoa! Huge straight after work on a Friday post!

  9.   Scott C
    March 27th, 2009 | 6:12 pm

    Err… sorry for the double post, my browser kept freezing up when posting :-/

    S.

  10.   Joey
    March 27th, 2009 | 8:54 pm

    For all its problems, it’s still not a move to ban organic food. Ages ago http://207.210.219.115/blog/?p=449 you said we should call you on your bullshit and ask you to clarify when you are not truthful or clear. I call bullshit on the whole way you’ve framed this. You either want me to do this sort of thing, or you don’t.

  11.   Administrator
    March 28th, 2009 | 10:56 am

    Scott: cheers.
    Joey: Fine. The framing was largely passing on the spin of the sources, if you bothered to check them out. Finishing the post with the “all information provided as is where is” check it out yourself caveat reflects that, to me.
    Maybe the headline should have had a ? after it! 🙂

  12.   Joey
    April 1st, 2009 | 7:26 am

    Ok, just so long as you were propagating someone else’s misleading spin rather than spinning it yourself. 😉