Saturday

HR 875: The Truth

There are a lot of misconceptions out about House Resolution 875 and Senate Resolution 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. A lot of this misinformation has people fearing this bill will do things that it just won’t do. Does that mean I think it’s a good bill that should pass? ABSOLUTELY NOT! However, if we are going to be concerned about it, then we need to be concerned for the right reasons.

I have found that we are much more likely to be taken seriously when we call and/or write our congressmen and women if we are well-informed about the issues. Granted, many of our congressmen and women wouldn’t know what the bill you were calling about included if it bit them in the face. Still, that shouldn’t stop US from reading and being informed!

I’ve heard lavish claims regarding this bill.

I’ve heard that Monsanto sponsored the resolution. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I don’t like Monsanto nor the things they have been doing. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had put money into this bill. However, I’ve yet to see anything concrete that tells me they definitely had something to do with it. I am told that people believe Monsanto is involved because one of the main sponsors of the bill (Rose Delauro) is married to a Monsanto employee (Stanley Greenberg). I'm in the process of investigating that right now. Still, even if he DID work there, that isn't concrete evidence that they were involved, but it certainly smells of conflict-of-interest...at the least.

According to Monsanto, Greenberg merely did contract work for them more than ten years ago. Being that this information comes directly from Monsanto and that most of the rest of what they say in this article regarding HR 875 isn't true, I don't know that we can trust the validity of that information. The Las Vegas Review Journal gives a little more information on Mr. Greenberg and his supposed connection to HR 875. I know that politicians have been known to lie (stop snickering). I also know that Monsanto has NOT had the best intentions regarding our food supply. So, take the information and the possible connections given the information we know as you will.

Some have said there will be a $1 million fee for each infraction. Again, I'm just not seeing it. I see where the groups formed will determine fees, but no fees are yet listed within the legislation. For what it's worth, I don't think any legislation that doesn't lay out details like this in advance should be passed. The claims of $1 million, though, just aren't there. (Update: I had a commenter point out to me that I had, in fact, missed something in my original reading of this bill. I apologize. Call it tiredness after reading through the entire bill. By the time I got to the 400 section, I apparently missed something. I have updated with the bill text below. Here's an overview: It states that the civil penalty for violating any portion of the act could be up to $1 million. However, it THEN goes on to say that each day that the violation continues will be considered a separate offense generating yet another fee. So yes. It is there.)

I’ve heard that this bill will make it illegal to sell, buy, or use heirloom seeds. I read the entire bill and find nothing even remotely close to that within HR 875 or HR 814 (a related bill). It is entirely possible that there is yet another related bill that includes such information. If this is the case I would ask you to please send me the info, but thus far I have seen nothing that substantiates this claim.

I have also heard that this bill will force home gardeners, local farmers, and organic farmers to use certain amounts of pesticides. Again, I have found nothing that substantiates this claim. I have found information regarding them limiting the type of fertilizer used. I understand they are trying to be safe and prevent e-coli, but I still don’t think it is right for them to attempt to regulate EVERYONE’S use of a particular substance because of the reckless regard of a few. If there is something in there that I am missing, again, PLEASE point it out to me.

There have also been those who have said that people are exaggerating regarding HR 875 and causing an unnecessary panic. Well…yes and no. There are some things (see the above 2 paragraphs) that are circulating that I have been unable to substantiate. However, their MAIN concern-that it could lead to regulation over local farmers selling at farmer’s markets and/or home gardeners- is, sadly, true. While this bill doesn’t specifically list home gardeners or local farmers, it doesn’t specifically exclude them either. With legislation, nothing should ever be assumed. If something or someone is not specifically excluded within legislation, then those considering such legislation must consider that those things or people COULD be interpreted as being subject to regulation under the legislation either immediately upon its passing or sometime down the road.

There have been cries of this resolution taking away the 10th amendment rights of states. This, unfortunately, is also true. They are doing so by making everything having to do with food federalized and saying that the states are forced, by this legislation, to adhere to the federal standards. They are effectively taking from the states something that belongs in the hands of the states. This is not new. This is not uncommon. This is and has been happening regularly which is why 32 states now have filed for sovereignty.

There is a section in there discussing the prohibition of “conflict of interest”. Given that this is the government and politics we’re talking about; I don’t expect much here in the way of true, unbiased regulation.

By far, my favorite part of the of the legislation is where they state that NAIS became a law in 2002. Um...No. The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) has NOT been passed into law yet, and certainly didn't become law back in 2002. It wasn't even proposed then!

This bill will also affect hunters who intend on processing the meat they kill. Some who self-process (very few) will get away with doing it themselves and no one will be any the wiser. If, however, a hunter takes his meat elsewhere to have it processed then it would fall under HR 875 even though it would be consumed by the hunter himself. HR 814 also has implications relating to hunters.

House resolution 814, a companion bill, is also currently before the house. If you have any questions, would like to add to what I have said, or show me where I can confirm the other rumors that are floating about 875, please e-mail me or comment below.

Could it be argued that they intended this to be used for corporations and that since we've had food issues lately we should just let them pass it and keep our mouths shut knowing what their actual intentions are? Perhaps. In my experience, though, our government doesn't work that way. If they actually intend for something to be a certain way then they need to state so in the legislation. There are few politicians who when given latitude to take something beyond its original intent will choose not to do so. My point? If they have the ability to do something within a bill, then it is likely that they eventually will. If we don't like what they will have the ability to do with a bill, then we should insist that it not be passed until it is written to our satisfaction. Remember, THEY work for US; not the other way around!

If you are not happy with what you have read so far or with what you read in the original resolution, then please contact your representatives and senators and let them know ASAP. I have heard rumors that they are trying to push this through in the next 2 weeks to avoid too much outcry. That in & of itelf should be a crime, in my oft-humbled opinion.

You can find the complete resolution as it currently stands by going here. In the search query field enter “875” (without the quotes) to see the house resolution. (You are looking for HR875 when the results come up.) Enter “510” (without the quotes) to see the senate resolution. (You are looking for S510 when the results come up.) I have yet to read the senate version.

Everything I have said thus far comes from the house version. I’ll be reading the senate version in just a bit and will update if necessary once I’m done.

I have included parts of the proposed legislation below. You will find my comments regarding each section in bold italics immediately following each section. Warning, this is long and tedious, but if you want to know what's in the bill, I'd recommend you take the time to read it here or on the Congressional sites. I do not include the entire bill below, but sections I have found to be relevant.
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Section 1, Section 3 (Definitions):

(5) CATEGORY 1 FOOD ESTABLISHMENT- The term `category 1 food establishment' means a food establishment (other than a seafood processing establishment) that slaughters, for the purpose of producing food, animals that are not subject to inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or poultry that are not subject to inspection under the Poultry Products Inspection Act. (This would include local farmers slaughtering for their families &/or friends & neighbors &/or those doing so at Farmer's markets, etc. In other words, "anyone not currently subject to inspection"...everyone.)

(6) CATEGORY 2 FOOD ESTABLISHMENT- The term `category 2 food establishment' means a seafood processing establishment or other food establishment (other than a category 1 establishment) not subject to inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, or the Egg Products Inspection Act, that processes raw seafood or other raw animal products, whether fresh or frozen, or other products that the Administrator determines by regulation to pose a significant risk of hazardous contamination. (Again...this would include local farms selling raw milk, raw cheese, raw eggs, etc. for personal use, for use by friends &/or family, or for use by those who own shares in their livestock..."other raw animal products, whether fresh or frozen...")

(7) CATEGORY 3 FOOD ESTABLISHMENT- The term `category 3 food establishment' means a food establishment (other than a category 1 or category 2 establishment) that processes cooked, pasteurized, or otherwise ready-to-eat seafood or other animal products, fresh produce in ready-to-eat raw form, or other products that pose a risk of hazardous contamination. (Note the absence of the word "sells"...simply, "that processes...fresh produce in ready-to-eat raw form..." This would include those growing food for their own family's consumption, food for consumption by their family &/or friends & neighbors, etc. as well as those selling at local farmer's markets.)

(8) CATEGORY 4 FOOD ESTABLISHMENT- The term `category 4 food establishment' means a food establishment that processes all other categories of food products not described in paragraphs (5) through (7).

(9) CATEGORY 5 FOOD ESTABLISHMENT- The term `category 5 food establishment' means a food establishment that stores, holds, or transports food products prior to delivery for retail sale. (Just in case we weren't sure before, we can now be sure that farms holding foods at their farms prior to delivery for retail sale at a farmer's market would be included here.)

(13) FOOD ESTABLISHMENT-
(A) IN GENERAL- The term `food establishment' means a slaughterhouse (except those regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act), factory, warehouse, or facility owned or operated by a person located in any State that processes food or a facility that holds, stores, or transports food or food ingredients. (This would kindly include any location...local farm or otherwise that holds, stores, or transports foods as they typically do when they're waiting for delivery to a farmer's market or delivering food to a farmer's market.)

(B) EXCLUSIONS- For the purposes of registration, the term `food establishment' does not include a food production facility as defined in paragraph (14), restaurant, other retail food establishment, nonprofit food establishment in which food is prepared for or served directly to the consumer, or fishing vessel (other than a fishing vessel engaged in processing, as that term is defined in section 123.3 of title 21, Code of Federal Regulations). (Here they kindly exclude a local soup kitchen, restaurants, or your next church dinner. Ironically, I would think food storage &/or prep practices at a restaurant would contribute significantly to the overall health of those consuming such food. But, alas, they get a pass on this one.)

(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term `food production facility' means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation. (And just in case we had any doubts, they clarify here that "any" farm, ranch...one privately owned, operated, and consumed from would be included here, orchard, vineyard, etc.)

(19) PROCESS- The term `process' or `processing' means the commercial slaughter, packing, preparation, or manufacture of food. (Commercial only defined as made for sale? Local farms selling locally only apply?)
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Sec. 201 (a) (2) ensure that persons who produce, process, or distribute food meet their responsibility to prevent or minimize food safety hazards related to their products. ("...Persons?" Not companies, but "persons"...)

(c) Program Elements- In carrying out the program, the Administrator shall--
(1) adopt and implement a national system for the registration of food establishments and foreign food establishments, as provided in section 202 of this Act; (Remember, we already established that any person growing food for consumption by a human or an animal is included. Ready to register your backyard fruit & veggie garden?) Can we say, "Civil Disobedience" boys & girls?

(2) adopt and implement a national system for regular unannounced inspection of food establishments (Nope. Not gonna give you permission to drop in unannounced to "inspect" my home. Last time I checked, legislation that violates the Constitution does not constitute a valid warrant.)

(3) require and enforce the adoption of preventive process controls in food establishments, based on the best available scientific and public health considerations and best available technologies; (What exactly is this?)

(12) provide technical assistance to farmers and food establishments that are small business concerns (meeting the requirements of section 3(a) of the Small Business Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder) to assist with compliance with the requirements of this Act. (Don't need nor do I want your "assistance"..."technical" or not. This would cover a local farm operating as a small business via selling on their land, at local farmer's markets, or through a herd-share program.)
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Sec. 202
(a) In General- Any food establishment or foreign food establishment engaged in manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food for consumption in the United States shall register annually with the Administrator. (We've already established that they consider a local farmer & a family growing food in their back yard as "food establishments". If they are manufacturing (i.e.-growing) food for consumption in the US then they shall be required to register. Um. NO! I am NOT registering my back yard garden with the US. Try again.)

There's a whole bunch of other junk in this section as well including how they can make you re-register, charge fees which are not defined and could likely be costly as a result, etc. You know, a bunch of other "junk".
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Sec. 203 (c) Specific Hazard Controls- The Administrator may require any person with responsibility for or control over food or food ingredients to adopt specific hazard controls, if such controls are needed to ensure the protection of the public health. (Is this what people think would force farmers &/or local gardeners to use chemicals? I guess I could see that.)
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Sec. 204 (a) In General- To protect the public health, the Administrator shall establish by guidance document, action level, or regulation and enforce performance standards that define, with respect to specific foods and contaminants in food, the level of food safety performance that a person responsible for producing, processing, or selling food shall meet. (Here again, leaves it open to anyone who produces, processes, or sells food; even home gardeners and local farmers.)

Sec. 204 (c) (1) (D) in the absence of data to support a performance standard described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C), standards that define required performance on the basis of reliable information on the best reasonably achievable performance, using best available technologies, interventions, and practices. (I’m pretty sure this is another area where people think, “…using best available interventions…” could require the use of chemicals or pesticides even on a home garden, local farm, &/or organic farm.)
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Sec.206
(d) Variances- States and foreign countries that export produce intended for consumption in the United States may request from the Administrator variances from the requirements of the regulations under subsection (c). A request shall--
(1) be in writing;
(2) describe the reasons the variance is necessary;
(3) describe the procedures, processes, and practices that will be followed under the variance to ensure produce is not adulterated; and
(4) contain any other information required by the Administrator. (What matters here? The fact that FOREIGN countries that export produce intended for consumption in the US CAN ASK FOR AN EXEMPTION TO THESE REGULATIONS!!!! Help me out here!! If their intent is to ensure our food is safe and MOST of the unsafe food has come from overseas then WHY exactly are we going to allow overseas companies to exempt themselves? Isn't this defeating to their alleged purpose for this act? Unless, of course, they actually have another purpose that has nothing to do with protecting our food supply at all.)
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Sec. 210 (2) EXISTING LAWS- For purposes of this subsection, the Administrator should review the following:
(d) Relationship to Other Requirements
(D) The National Animal Identification System as authorized by the Animal Health Protection Act of 2002 (7 U.S.C. 8301 et seq.). (Um…The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is NOT currently law and CERTAINLY wasn’t law in 2002!!! It was fought HEAVILY last year because of its strict requirements that would only charge one fee for a corporation such as Tyson which has thousands of chickens, but would charge an individual farmer a HIGH fee PER animal…the cost wouldn’t have even been close to comparable.)
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Sec. 301 (c)
(2) COMPONENTS OF ANALYSIS- The analysis under subsection (b)(1) may include--
(A) a comparison of the safety of commercial processing with the health hazards associated with food that is harvested for recreational or subsistence purposes and prepared noncommercially; (In case you didn't read that right, it will require, "...comparison to foods harvested for recreational or subsistence purposes or prepared noncommercially" Still doubting whether individuals growing food for their own consumption will be included in this legislation?)
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Sec. 302 (b)
(2) to develop standardized formats for written and broadcast advisories; (I don't know about you, but I'm all kinds of happy that they'll be attempting to control media with this bill as well. Hope they know that bloggers don't listen very well to intimidation or fake, unconstitutional legislation.)
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Sec. 303 Research (a)
(5) develop food consumption data; (I'm curious to know how
they intend on developing "food consumption data" with
current methods. I suspect how they'll do it, but I haven't
seen confirmation so I won't mention it here...yet)
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SEC. 401. PROHIBITED ACTS.
It is prohibited--
(3) for a food establishment or foreign food establishment to fail to register under section 202, or to operate without a valid registration; (How about it's unconstitutional to make people register their home gardens? That's what I thought. No. I won't be registering. And again...can everyone say, "CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE" with me!)

(4) to refuse to permit access to a food establishment or food production facility for the inspection and copying of a record as required under sections 205(f) and 206(a) (See note on #3)
(5) to fail to establish or maintain any record or to make any report as required under sections 205(f) and 206(b) (Again...see note on #3)

(6) to refuse to permit entry to or inspection of a food establishment as required under section 205; (Again...note on #3)
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SEC. 405. CIVIL AND CRIMINAL PENALTIES.
(a) Civil Sanctions-
(1) CIVIL PENALTY-
(A) IN GENERAL- Any person that commits an act that violates the food safety law (including a regulation promulgated or order issued under the food safety law) may be assessed a civil penalty by the Administrator of not more than $1,000,000 for each such act. (This would be the $1 million for each offense that people are worried about. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there.)
(B) SEPARATE OFFENSE- Each act described in subparagraph (A) and each day during which that act continues shall be considered a separate offense. (Not only is there UP TO $1 million for EACH offense, but EACH DAY that you continue in your violation of this act will count as a SEPARATE offense! This could add up quickly for the backyard farmer...even if they're NOT charged the full $1 million.)

9 comments:

Amy said...

I wanted to add that you can track the progress of the bill @ http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111-875

Thanks, Linda @ www.appomattoxnews.com for the tracking info!

Amy

Anonymous said...

DeLauro's husband, Stanley Greenburg, works for Monsanto – the world's leading producer of herbicides and genetically engineered seed.

Amy said...

THAT would explain it. Thanks! I'll update my blog to note that.

Amy

John said...

Amy,

Thanks so much for this great article. I have a blog too at organic.ca and am writing an article about what is similarly happening in Canada.

Sec.206 likely refers to Codex Alimentarius. We have the same sort of legislation about to be janmmed through up here, Bill c-6(formerly failed Bills C-51 and C-52).

The really scary part is that if this goes through it will not be the result of US political will, but global poltics. The UN/WHO is behind all this on a global basis. You see Monsanto is not focused on controlling just the US food supply, but the global food supply.

Thanks,
John

Alex said...

Here is an online petition you can sign to help stop HR 875: http://www.LeaveMyFoodAlone.org

Spread the word!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I hope that you have you had a chance to read the bill yourself. When you commented that "you're just not seeing..." the $1,000,000 penalties... It is the very first line of the penalties section. Here:

SEC. 405. CIVIL AND CRIMINAL PENALTIES.

(a) Civil Sanctions-
(1) CIVIL PENALTY-
(A) IN GENERAL- Any person that commits an act that violates the food safety law (including a regulation promulgated or order issued under the food safety law) may be assessed a civil penalty by the Administrator of not more than $1,000,000 for each such act.
(B) SEPARATE OFFENSE- Each act described in subparagraph (A) and each day during which that act continues shall be considered a separate offense.

Amy said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment. As I stated in my post, I DID read the bill myself.

I also asked for people to please let me know if I missed something. I obviously did. I appreciate your pointing that out.

I have updated my blog to reflect such.

Anonymous said...

To clarify, Delauro's husband, actually named Michael Taylor, is not a current employee of Monsanto. He did contract work for Monsanto over 10 years go.

The bill's real issue is its vagueness, not its intent. We want food to be safe, but not when it potentially endangers small farmers and community farms. The terms of what is a "small farm" or "food production facility" are extremely vague.

Let's not speculate too much. No tin foil hats necessary. The issue of food safety needs to be debated, not inflated with pseudo-true claims.

Amy said...

Anonymous-People would have more respect for your answers if you choose to put your face behind them.

I would like to clarify a few things myself. First, Ms. Delauro is NOT married to a Michael Taylor. The day before you posted this, I updated my blog with the info that she was married to Stanley Greenberg. (This is a non-disputable fact.) I don't know where you got the name Michael Taylor, but it's not right. I also posted the info that, according to Monsanto, he only did contract work for them (didn't even work for them directly)...and more than 10yrs ago at that. This is not new info. It was posted on my blog, but with the correct info on her husband's name.

We'll have to agree to disagree about this bill. While I agree that the vagueness is a problem, I believe that the INTENT behind making it vague is ALSO a problem. Had they wanted to JUST target big-food manufacturers, then they would have stated that. They intended, however, to leave the door open for pretty much anything in the future with their vagueness. I would argue that the fact that they CHOOSE to make this bill as vague as they have shows INTENT to leave the door open to go after small, local farms and family gardens in the future.

There are no tin-foil hats here, sir/madam. Just the facts as they have written them in the bill. I have stated NOTHING that is not specifically written in the bill. Regarding Monsanto's ties, I stated the facts as I could find them. I stated my concerns regarding conflict-of-interest (a HUGE concern for MANY (most?) politicians), and my concerns regarding the validity of the information given the source (Monsanto). That's not tin-foil hat. That's wisdom. That's not deciding that because one source says it is so then it is so...especially when that source has shown themselves to be tainted and untruthful (as you can see from the rest of the info in the article on Monsanto's page).

I also have clearly debunked one rumor floating about heirloom seeds being forever banned by this. It's just not there that I can see.

I don't do tin-foil, sir/madam. One can have a different take on something (the possible Monsanto connection), but not be a tin-foil hat.

There are no pseudo-true claims here. I have stated the facts as I have found them. (Didn't I already say that?) I have also let readers know that they'll have to make their own conclusions regarding Monsanto's involvement or lack thereof.

Frankly, I'm not as concerned about food-safety as I am about the government attempting to unconstitutionally infringe upon my rights. Any concerns I have about food safety regard the uncalled-for number of chemicals, pesticides, and radiation in our food supply. My concerns would also extend to the effects of genetic modification on our health. My concerns, sir/madam, about food safety are not the same as the governments. They have made THAT abundantly clear.

Amy

 
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