How to Sift Through the New S.510 Food Safety Bill (How Does it Affect You?)
Conundrum: I don’t want a giant agri-business to be able to sell my family the spinach they grew downstream from factory-farmed cattle (mmm, E. coli!) but I also don’t want much (or any) regulations placed on small-scale farms, CSAs, farmer’s markets, online farmer’s markets, small dairies, or backyard growers. Citizens are capable of inspecting their own local food — because if it’s local, it isn’t hard to figure out where it came from. People should be trusted to make decisions on whether they want to buy raw or pasteurized milk. They should be allowed to buy their produce from the farm they toured with their kids last Saturday. But how can they be expected to make informed decisions on supermarket food from all over the globe without safety regulations and accurate labeling?
That said, I have mixed feelings about the S.510 Food Safety Bill that lawmakers in congress are deciding on this week, and I’m not the only one. Writing a bill that encompasses all these complicated gray areas is as difficult as understanding the bill once it’s been written. Factor in partisan bickering and the lobbyists for major corporations… it’s a mess!
The national news hasn’t shown a lot of coverage on this subject. It isn’t sexy. But the reports I have seen are conflicting.
The touted purpose of the bill is to prevent outbreaks of contaminated food like ones with eggs and peanuts recently seen in the news. Advocates for small-scale agriculture objected that the regulations would put small farms out of business, but most were placated by the Tester amendment (Associated Press). Some still feel the amendment isn’t strong enough, and there are concerns that it has been watered down. Here’s Michael Pollan’s take on the bill and the Tester amendment (Washington Post). Others are worried that loopholes will make the safety precautions meaningless (Huffington Post).
Another perspective is that the entire bill is detrimental, such as this take on NaturalNews.com. Concerns are especially focused on whether big agriculture is lobbying to use the nation’s fear of food-borne illnesses to expand their monopoly over the market. It’s possible that a final vote will never occur, due to additional amendments that the Senate can’t agree on (Wall Street Journal).
What do you think? New information is popping up on this by the hour, so if you have something to add, I’d love to hear it. And don’t just tell me, call your senator’s office!
Note: I’d rather keep this on the topic of the merits or faults of the bill rather than pointing fingers at Republicans or Democrats (which is something I wish that congress would do when they are lawmaking).