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Myths/Facts H.R. 875 Food Safety Modernization Act

Websites, list-serves, and emails have been flooded with fear based proclamations on H.R. 875, The Food Safety and Modernization Act. I've received a couple emails that have shed light on the Congressional bill and have posted a those excerpts below. The first is a letter from the office of Rep. Rosa Delauro, who introduced the bill; the second is from a clarifying email by Tracy Lerman, policy organizer - Organic Farming Research Foundation.

I. Letter from the office of: Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)

• MYTH: H.R. 875 "makes it illegal to grow your own garden" and would result in the "criminalization of the backyard gardner."
FACT: There is no language in the bill that would regulate, penalize, or shut down backyard gardens. This bill is focused on ensuring the safety of foods sold in supermarkets.

• MYTH: H.R. 875 would mean a "goodbye to farmers markets" because the bill would "require such a burdensome complexity of rules, inspections, licensing, fees, and penalties for each farmer who wishes to sell locally - a fruit stand, at a farmers market."
FACT: There is no language in the bill that would result in farmers markets being regulated, penalized any fines, or shut down. Farmers markets would be able to continue to flourish under the bill. In fact, the bill would insist that imported foods meet strict safety standards to ensure that unsafe imported foods are not competing with locally-grown foods.

• MYTH: H.R. 875 would result in the "death of organic farming."
FACT: There is no language in the bill that would stop organic farming. The National Organic Program (NOP) is under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Food Safety Modernization Act only addresses issues under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

• MYTH: The bill would implement a national animal ID system.
FACT: There is no language in the bill that would implement a national animal ID system. Animal identification issues are under the jurisdiction of the USDA. The Food Safety Modernization Act addresses issues under the jurisdiction of the FDA.

• MYTH: The bill is supported by the large agribusiness industry.
FACT: No large agribusiness companies have expressed support for this bill. This bill is being supported by several Members of Congress who have strong progressive records on issues involving farmers markets, organic farming, and locally-grown foods. Also, H.R. 875 is the only food safety legislation that has been supported by all the major consumer and food safety groups, including:
-- Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
-- Center for Science in the Public Interest
-- Consumer Federation of America
-- Consumers Union
-- Food & Water Watch
-- The Pew Charitable Trusts
-- Safe Tables Our Priority
-- Trust for America's Health

• MYTH: The bill will pass the Congress next week without amendments or debate.
FACT: Food safety legislation has yet to be considered by any Congressional committee."

II. From Tracy Lerman:

Policy Organizer

Organic Farming Research Foundation :

"This food safety thing is a huge can of worms, and there is a lot of misinformation being spread around. In the wake of the salmonella peanut scandal, there are several bills being introduced that attempt to address the gaps in the food safety net. Some of them call for more draconian measures than others and could pose onerous regulations on small family farmers.

The main myths that I have seen are that these bills are being pushed by Monsanto, that they will be passed by Congress in the next two weeks, and that they will outlaw backyard gardens and organic farms. None of this is true. Monsanto has nothing to do with these bills. Period. I've definitely been getting these action alerts for more than two weeks, and so far the bills haven't even been heard in a Congressional committee. The bills also contain quite a few provisions that will regulate the pharmaceutical industry (so I've heard) which will slow them down tremendously. Also, it's one of those things where a bunch of bills get introduced but what will likely happen is that pieces of each bill will be put into one of them, likely the Dingell bill, HR 759." [And, to the concern that organic gardening and backyard gardening will be outlawed]: "The Obamas are about to put an organic garden on their lawn. Congress just gave an historical increase to organic farming programs in the last farm bill. Why would they then turn around and outlaw organic farming?

Rep Delauro, who introduced one of the bills (HR 875) has been vilified as one of the perpetrators in this whole thing, but she is actually a very reasonable, intelligent, and progressive member of Congress who has been very supportive of local food and family farming. Last week, a delegation from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (of which OFRF is a member) met with her staff and were told that it was by no means her intention to introduce any bill that would turn the tide on local/organic/family farm initiatives and efforts. She also happens to be chair of a very powerful subcommittee, the Agriculture Subcommittee in the Appropriations Committee, and therefore has the ability to really influence what actually goes down the pike with these two bills.

In terms of resources on what the bills do and how they are problematic, I suggest you check out the blog, La Vida Locavore http://www.lavidalocavore.org/. She has some good takes on it. Also, NOFA www.nofa.org and Food and Water Watch http://www.foodandwaterwatch. org/food/foodsafety/ background-on-h-r-875 have a good take on the Food Safety issues. Also, read this from the last NSAC Weekly alert, which has a link to this write-up in "The Hill": http://thehill.com/op-eds/ agriculture--food-safety-2009- 03-19.html

Food Safety Buzz: Amid the chatter on the blogs and foodie listserves in the wake of the introduction of several food safety bills this year in Congress, the Friday, March 20, 2009 edition of The Hill (a Capitol Hill rag read by staffers and legislators) contains a 5-page special section on Agriculture and Food Safety.

The special section includes a short piece by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) outlining the food safety bill she recently introduced to fundamentally restructure the food safety bureaucracy by establishing a new Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Service. Another piece, by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) draws the connection between food safety and food imports. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) argues that food safety concerns can be addressed with improvements to the existing system and more prudent use of current funding, while House Agriculture Chair Collin Peterson (D-MN) notes his intention to conduct food safety oversight hearings regarding both FDA and USDA."

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Now you've heard one side of the issue.

"In this world, things are complicated and are decided by many factors. We should look at problems from different aspects, not from just one."

You should read the bill yourself at govtrack.us. search hr 875.

And hear opposing viewpoints at

Posted by Anonymous on April 17, 2009 at 10:25 AM CDT #

MYTH: This bill will make it illegal to grow vegetables in a back-yard garden.
FACT: This bill will make it illegal for anyone to sell vegetables from there back-yard garden to restaurants without permits/licensing/regulation

FACT: Small farmers with "back-yard gardens" grow me nicer produce for my restaurant than anything I can get from SYSCO®.

Posted by Benn Daniels on July 25, 2010 at 11:47 PM CDT #

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