The controversial FDA Food Modernization Act (S. 510) passed the Senate today and will regulate everything from small farms to farmers markets.
The FDA will now have unprecedented control over the growing and selling of food within the United States. Yes, the very same FDA that already allows thousands upon thousands of unhealthy, mass-produced food products to flood supermarkets and into the hungry bellies of schoolchildren and adults every day.
S. 510 passed the Senate by a vote of 73 yeas and 25 nays. It now heads to President Obama’s desk for approval. What can Americans expect from the new FDA powers in the short term before we proceed to a Soylent Green world? Let’s take a look.
Basically, the bill was envisioned as a more efficient way of tracking contaminated food (which the officials believe might be a future method of terrorism), so that any food item grown and packaged in California, for example, and ending up in another state can be better contained, preventing “adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals” (Sec. 101 and 102). However, while surface level this seems advantageous for everyone, complying with federal regulations might be costly for small farms, particularly those struggling to stay competitive in the market, or suppliers of food to farmer’s markets.
The worry amongst many Americans is that the federal regulations will put the small farms and farmer’s markets out of business, and let corporate food manufacturers like Monsanto (which holds patents on foods) gain tighter control over the food supply. Other businesses like Nestlé, ADM, ConAgra, Bunge, Cargill, and Pioneer Hybrids (the largest U.S. seed company), to name but a few, would also benefit from this legislation.
For instance, facilities will have to comply with new regulations, and this might require certain businesses to spend money (in a crippled economy) on facilities renovation. This might, in turn, cause businesses to shutter their doors.
Many also worry that these regulations and the involvement of the Department of Homeland Security in this legislation will allow the government to pursue and prosecute anyone growing food in a time of national emergency, effectively giving the government control over food. Conspiracy theorists equate the legislation with an apocalyptic vision of the U.S. government rationing and/or denying food to Americans.
It does seem unlikely that the new FDA regulations will wipe out farmers markets and prohibit human beings from growing their own food. And in the event of a national emergency, it also seems unlikely that the government will have the manpower to stop people from growing and gathering their own food. Advice to the conspiracy theorists: buy seeds from local farmers for a variety of fruits and vegetables and hoard them like pack rats.
That said, this legislation does not seem urgent or necessary in the final analysis. But, if Americans want to send a message to the government about S. 510, buy locally. Get to know the farmers and other food suppliers in your area.
And another solution is for Americans to invest in creating their own gardens or joining local food collectives and co-ops.
Make Monsanto and other multinationals irrelevant.