Greens urge amendment to food safety bills, citing need to protect family farms and organic farming


Green Party leaders voiced concerns about the "Food Safety Modernization Act" (HR 875 and S 425) and, while supporting the goal of food safety and farm inspections, urged amendments in the bill to protect small and family farms, farmers' markets, and organic farming.

Agriculture on display.
Image by gak via Flickr

"America needs national food safety guarantees in the age of genetic modification, misleading labeling, food-borne illnesses and contaminants, especially pesticides. But the 'one size fits all' approach of the bills endangers family farms and local, organic agriculture. Without amendments, the result of HR 875 and S 425 may be the demise of small farms and organic agriculture, increased profits and the expansion of giant agri-businesses," said Nancy Allen, farmer and member of the Maine Green Independent Party.

"Rather than crushing protocols and penalties, we call for regulation that ensures food safety by working with family farms, farmers markets, and similar small businesses and promotes the selling of locally, organically, and sustainably grown produce," Ms. Allen added.

Greens noted that the bills do not address the problems of the large corporate farms: poor working conditions, limitations on fast marketing because of large quantities of produce, long-distance markets, overuse of chemicals, petroleum dependence, and lack of quality, nutrition, taste, and freshness.

Recent breakdowns in food safety have been the result of major corporate farming practices that fail to control pathogens, because of indequate regulatory oversight caused by the influence of agricultural monopolies on state and national agencies responsible for protecting consumers. Greens said that all farms should be held to strict standards and undergo inspections, but warned that the cost of paperwork and oversight protocols would be prohibitive to small farms and would ultimately harm consumers if small farms were subjected to the same requirements as huge agribusiness farms.

The Green Party's national platform advocates "legislation that assists new farmers and ranchers, that promotes widespread ownership to small and medium-sized farms and ranches, and that revitalizes and repopulates rural communities and promotes sustainable development and stewardship."

For more information on the Food Safety bills and concerns about their effect on small farms, visit the Cornucopia Institute's web pages: "Farmers Fear Being Run over by Food Safety Juggernaut" (April 2, 2009); Action Alert: Critical Pending Food Safety Legislation.

See also "Food Safety Hits the Fan: Regulatory Action, Inaction and Over-reaction and the Effects on Small Scale Growers" by Steve Gilman, Northeast Organic Farm Association - Interstate Council Policy Coordinator.

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