Posted by: Michael George Daniel | April 6, 2009

HR 875 Food Safety

My last car had one of the best bumperstickers I’ve ever come across: “Speak Your Mind, Even if Your Voice Shakes”.  This is true for bloggers and letter writers too. The message of this post, despite any other minor details you might stumble over here, is exactly what the bumpersticker says: Raise your voice!

There is currently a tremendous outcry over a bill presently working its way through congress. This bill, HR 875, has the title of Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. Click on the link and read through it. Then make up your mind how to respond – and then do it!

The fact is, the furor over HR 875 may be a bit overdone. But I am not one to suggest we shouldn’t be asking a lot of questions and expressing concern. And, the bill does provide for frighteningly sweeping powers and is vague in many of its definitions that would limit the application of the provisions and reduce administrative costs.

Also disconcerting is one particular argument for relative calm that I’ve been coming across. This argument states that the bill is poorly written and won’t even make it out of committee. This line of reasoning does not seem reliable.

There are other bills, namely HR 759, that may pose a more onerous threat to food choice than 875. This article in GRIST is reasonably balanced in my opinion: http://www.grist.org/article/2009-04-06-2009-catching-up-on-food-news.

There is a lot of conflicting information propagating on the internet about this. At first I felt plenty angry about allegations that the lead sponsor of the bill, Connecticut Rep. Rosa Delauro is married to a Monsanto executive. Actually, he is a pretty liberal, democratic strategist and CEO of his own firm. Here is a blogsite with some additional, clear-sounding information: http://crooksandliars.com/nonny-mouse/monsanto-and-hr-875-take-two. Note though, that Greenberg’s firm has worked for Monsanto – there is no doubt about that, and elements of concern exist with regard to the very tight little circle of influential elite that seem to continue to come into focus the more one looks into this bill.

I’m not saying which information is accurate. The fact is, I don’t really know. But I encourage you to investigate for yourself. I don’t think there is anything wrong with expressing concern about this bill or any other matter that concerns people. If you are treated with anything but respect and deference, then complain about that too – we pay for this representation and it needs to be sensitive and responsive.

Another good place to look might be FactCheck.org: http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/would_a_new_bill_in_congress_make.html. They’ve looked at this and also conclude that there is a lot of misinformation being promulgated. They also referred to this website: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/foodsafety/background-on-h-r-875. This website suggests that HR 759, may pose more of a threat to local food.

Despite any misinformation, let’s be clear about one thing: regulating food is a deeply disturbing concept and something that we need to be able to understand and react to cogently.

For the record, the following are sponsors of HR 875:

Ms. DELAURO (for herself, Ms. ESHOO, Ms. DEGETTE, Ms. SCHAKOWSKY, Mr. ENGEL, Ms. CASTOR of Florida, Mr. MURPHY of Connecticut, Ms. SUTTON, Mrs. LOWEY, Ms. SLAUGHTER, Mr. HINCHEY, Mr. MCGOVERN, Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, Ms. HIRONO, Mr. GRIJALVA, Mr. SCHAUER, Mr. NADLER of New York, Mr. BISHOP of New York, Ms. LINDA T. SANCHEZ of California, Mr. MCDERMOTT, Mr. RYAN of Ohio, Ms. GIFFORDS, Mr. FILNER, Mr. HALL of New York, Ms. LEE of California, Ms. PINGREE of Maine, Ms. KAPTUR, Mr. BISHOP of Georgia, Ms. MOORE of Wisconsin, and Mr. DEFAZIO) introduced the following bill;

Want to know more about Monsanto ties to the federal government? Check out this site: http://members.aye.net/~hippie/monsanto.htm. Despite some mistakes that may or may not have been made with regard to reaction to this bill, the ethical foundations of the corporate/regulator revolving door are not sound.

Also for the record, here is a rebuttal from Monsanto: http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/for_the_record/hr875_monsanto_dream_bill.asp in which they state that Stanley Greenberg is not an employee, but only consulted for Monsanto more than ten years ago.You might also check out Monsanto’s entire blog, dedicated to ‘debunking’ all the biased information about them. According to their blog, they are not as bad as people make them out to be. Go figure! I understand that playing Obama’s phrase, “We can do it” backwards yields “thank you Satan”. If this is true, where does that put Monsanto?

Try this Monsanto blog on for feel, it might be instructive: http://blog.monsantoblog.com/2009/04/01/gmos-improving-nutrition/. This is where they offer ’10 Reasons We Do Need GM Foods’. Only there aren’t, like, ten reasons even listed and the argument is paperthin and dripping with spin.

I’ve written several times, and made numerous phone calls, including to our beloved Rosa DeLauro, expressing outrage about HR 875. Am I a little embarrassed? Yes, I suppose. But, still, its good practice: Raise your voice, it may count sooner than you think.

So after doing some more research and writing this blog post, here is the final version of a message to my representative, Joe Courtney. A bit shallow, I admit, but not nearly as headstrong as the first version. I think the point here, is to use these instances to get better at articulating that which you are for – what kind of world do you want? What are the real issues, not those put forth on the TV, but the underlying values, ideals, behaviors and ways of thinking that support that most flawed aspects of our society?  Are you willing to uncover them and look at them? Are you willing to raise your voice in favor of something better? Too much goes unspoken, unnoticed in our society. We live in a smoke screen, cover your ass culture that reinforces denial and repression rather than truth and ideals. We can’t afford this kind of behavior another moment. As I write this, I have the distinct feeling that our much admired President is, too, succumbing pragmatic pressures that are leading him away from his, and our, ideals. Or is it that he doesn’t think we can handle the truth – the truth that elements of our society are deeply flawed and need to change or we are all, literally, cooked? Let him and every one in a leadership position, including your own Mayor or First Selectman, know that you are in favor of transparency and ideal-driven policy including the elimination of corporate influence on food policy.  I know this may sound hopelessly idealistic, but why can we not expect our senators and representatives to respond to well articulated values that we, the people, offer up? Here’s a copy of my message to Rep. Courtney:

“I am writing to express my deepest concern about bills currently being considered with regard to food safety. One such bill is HR 875, over which there has emerged a lot of internet protest. But more importantly, I think the level of rhetoric needs to lead to a deep review of all food related bills including HR 759, which may be more onerous than 875.

The fact is, we need to support local food now, as fossil fuels diminish. We need to admit that world population is out of control and we need to show leadership in true sustainability: an ecological approach to life in this country that unwinds the growth-requirements of our money system and recognizes the immediate need to operate within the real limits of our planet.

Let’s take a step back from all of the food bills and fix the underlying assumptions. That would be true leadership, and we are relying on you!”

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