Food Safety Modernization Act
The headlines read "Bill Makes It Illegal to Grow, Trade or Sell Your Own Food." My first thought is, "What bonehead authored that ridiculous bill?" My second is, "Why did Congress even consider it, let alone pass it? Looking further into the bill, it actually looked good on the surface. Rather than removing the right to produce your own food, it seemed to protect consumers from the big companies who have sickened and even killed many citizens with tainted foods including eggs, spinach, meat and peanut butter. Then you look at the 17 amendments being proposed and the authority given to the FDA and Homeland Security, and you have to wonder what else this bill is hiding.
Senate bill S510 has received a lot of publicity as people worry about losing the ability to grow their own food. The bill was introduced in March, 2009 to allow the Food and Drug Administration to monitor domestic and foreign food supplies in an attempt to stop consumers from becoming ill by eating contaminated food. The bill passed in Congress, initiating a flurry of concern that small growers, organic farms and home gardens would be forced to pay fees to file voluminous mounds of paperwork and undergo surprise inspections.
There are several legitimate concerns about this bipartisan bill. It looks like yet another attempt to take away personal freedom of the most basic kind: the right to food. After years of encouraging low income citizens to learn to fend for themselves by growing their own food, the government can potentially arrest them for it. The need to protect our health by eating more organically grown food could be supplanted with eventual regulation limiting food choices to what the government chooses to give us.
Think that could never happen? Look at the way legislation works. The original bipartisan bill to strengthen government control of the food supply looks very little like the bill now being considered. Amendments are being considered to exempt small growers and alternatives are being proposed for organic farmers, but a long list of organizations are lobbying against this. Elements of the bill may be added to other similar bills, making it look like the bill never passed.
Most of us grumble, but few of us do the research needed to make us informed citizens. If you are concerned about S 510, you have until the first voting session after the Thanksgiving 2010 holiday to let your senators know. Receiving thousands of phone calls, letters and e-mails from voters can cause consideration from elected officials for their constituents, even after an election. But they can't hear us at all if we don't speak up.
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