By Linn Cohen-Cole
Wisdom says stop a bill that is broad as everything yet more vague even than it is broad.
Wisdom says stop a bill that comes with massive penalties but allows no judicial review.
Wisdom says stop a bill with everything unspecifiedÂ andÂ actually waits until next year for an unspecified “Administrator”Â toÂ decide what’s what. Â
Wisdom says know who wrote that billÂ andÂ be forewarned. Â
Wisdom says wake up.
Here’s the bill (HR 875). Let’s use our imaginationsÂ andÂ extrapolate from the little bit it revealsÂ andÂ from the reality we know.
SEC. 206. FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITIES.
(a) Authorities- In carrying out the duties of the AdministratorÂ andÂ the purposes of this Act, the Administrator shall have the authority, with respect toÂ food production facilities,Â to–
(1) visitÂ andÂ inspect food production facilities in the United States andÂ in foreign countriesÂ toÂ determine if they are operating in compliance with the requirements of the food safety law;
(2) review food safety records as requiredÂ toÂ be kept by the Administrator under section 210Â andÂ for other food safety purposes;
(3) set good practice standardsÂ toÂ protect the publicÂ andÂ animal healthÂ andÂ promote food safety;
(4) conduct monitoringÂ andÂ surveillance of animals, plants, products, or the environment, as appropriate;Â and
(5) collectÂ andÂ maintain information relevantÂ toÂ public healthÂ and farm practices.
(b) Inspection of Records- A food production facility shall permit the Administrator upon presentation of appropriate credentialsÂ andÂ at reasonable timesÂ andÂ in a reasonable manner,Â toÂ have accessÂ toÂ andÂ ability toÂ copy all records maintained by or on behalf of such food production establishment in any format (including paper or electronic)Â andÂ at any location, that are necessaryÂ toÂ assist the Administrator–
(1)Â toÂ determine whether the food is contaminated, adulterated, or otherwise not in compliance with the food safety law; or
(2)Â toÂ track the food in commerce.
(c) Regulations- Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of AgricultureÂ and representatives of State departments of agriculture, shall promulgate regulationsÂ toÂ establish science-based minimum standards for the safe production of food by food production facilities. Such regulations shall–
(1) consider all relevant hazards, including those occurring naturally, andÂ those that may be unintentionally or intentionally introduced;
(2) require each food production facilityÂ toÂ have a written food safety plan that describes the likely hazardsÂ andÂ preventive controls implementedÂ toÂ address those hazards;
(3) include, withÂ respectÂ toÂ growing,Â harvesting,Â sorting, andÂ storageÂ operations, minimum standards relatedÂ toÂ fertizerÂ use, nutrients, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment,Â andÂ water;
Ah, such a little paragraph,Â andÂ so much evil packed in it.
Notice they mentionÂ harvesting,Â sortingÂ andÂ storageÂ operations? Notice theyÂ never mentionÂ seedsÂ but they are precisely what those words cover. Â
Now, watchÂ howÂ they will be ableÂ toÂ easilyÂ criminalizeÂ seed bankingÂ andÂ all holding ofÂ seeds. Â
First,Â toÂ followÂ howÂ this will be done, you must understand that:Â
1. Â there is a small list inside the FDA calledÂ “sources of seed contamination“
2. Â and the FDA hasÂ nowÂ definedÂ “seed” asÂ food,Â Â
3. Â soÂ seedsÂ can now beÂ controlled throughÂ “food safety.”Â Â
ThoseÂ seedsÂ (so far) include:Â
seedsÂ eaten rawÂ such as flax, poppy sesame, etc.;Â
sproutingÂ seedsÂ such as wheat, beans, alfalfa, most greens, etc.;Â
seedsÂ pressed into oilsÂ such as corn, sunflower, canola, etc.;
seedsÂ used as animal feedÂ such as soy …. Â
That isÂ mostÂ seeds. It may even be allÂ seeds, givenÂ howÂ they are skilled at new definitions. Â
AndÂ what are the “sources of seed contamination” inside the FDA? They include only six little items:
manureÂ (butÂ notÂ chemical pesticides or fertilizers)
harvesting,Â transportingÂ andÂ seed cleaning (sorting) equipmentÂ
seedÂ storage (storing)Â facilities
Did you know that seed cleaning equipment isÂ THEÂ single most critical piece of equipment for sustainable agriculture? It isÂ howÂ we collect organic seed. It isÂ the machinery used after the season, when plants “goÂ toÂ seed,”Â toÂ separate out (sort) theÂ seedsÂ from the plant material so the farmer canÂ collectÂ (harvest)Â andÂ then save (put inÂ storage) seed for the next year at little cost. With his own seed, the farmer also stays free of patented, genetically engineered, corporately privatizedÂ seeds.
This year, 2009, one item on the “sources of seed contamination” list is suddenly illegalÂ in some parts of this country -Â seedÂ cleaning equipment. Â Â
ToÂ get the drift, perhaps you needÂ toÂ know thatÂ theÂ peopleÂ whoÂ clean seedÂ areÂ being wiped outÂ as well.Â Â
HowÂ can they make such vital equipment illegal? Quietly, first of all, so as notÂ toÂ alert organic farmers who have a lot of political ties. AndÂ by saying it contaminates food. And by applying their innocent and reasonable sounding “minimum standardsâ€. Â
“Contaminate” is their favorite word since the public fears the deadly contamination that industry itself – not farmers – has caused. That fear is valuable. Scare the publicÂ andÂ it is easyÂ toÂ get “food safety standards” set without anyone readingÂ them. 39 progressive co-sponsors leap on, thinking this is about “food safety.” But it is only about theÂ useÂ of “food safety,” not the reality of it
ForÂ toÂ eliminate seed cleaning equipment, the FDA simpleÂ set minimum “food safety” standards for seed cleaning (the simple separation of seed from plant) such that a farmer would need a millionÂ to a millionÂ andÂ a half dollar buildingÂ and/or equipmentÂ toÂ meet the new requirements …Â per line of seed.
On the ground, where reality lives, a farmer in the midwest who has been seed cleaning flax for 40 years with his hand made seed cleaner now can’t sell his flax on the market anymore. Never mind there are NO instances of anyone ever having gotten sick from seed cleaning equipment. AndÂ a farmer in another part of the midwest who has been cleaning wheat, cornÂ andÂ soy for years with one single perfectly fine piece of equipment would now need threeÂ toÂ fourÂ andÂ half million dollars for three separate pieces of equipment, in orderÂ toÂ satisfy the “food safety” standards.
The FDA isn’t so high-bar setting when it comesÂ toÂ other things like melamine in baby formula. Though it has provenÂ toÂ sickenÂ andÂ kill infants, initially the FDA just denied the melamine was in all the corporate baby formula but when people found evidence that it was, the FDA then quickly supplied a “food safety” standard that defined whatever level of melamine that was in the formula as fine.
This game playing about “food safety” standards – oneÂ toÂ eliminate farmers by setting the bar so high no one can climb,Â andÂ oneÂ toÂ protect industry by setting the bar so low nothing need be done – is nothing new but now it is being suddenly extendedÂ toÂ seeds. And it comes withÂ penalties that make bankruptingÂ farmers in an instant, very easy. Â
The effortÂ toÂ eliminate both seed cleanersÂ andÂ seed cleaning equipment tips us offÂ toÂ who is behind this (shhh)Â andÂ toÂ this new means of controllingÂ seedsÂ and makes it possibleÂ toÂ see just a few suspect words in this bill,Â andÂ sense where things are heading.
Organic farmers are not aware of any of this happening. It appears the organic community is being treated with kid gloves until HR 875Â andÂ related bills should be passed, coddled so they don’t get wiseÂ toÂ what’s afoot. AndÂ they are too disconnected from traditional farmersÂ toÂ be aware ofÂ howÂ the USDA has been tromping onÂ themÂ for years.
So organic farmers have missedÂ the handwriting on the wall for themselves.
Plus, plain ole farmers have a history of no one listeningÂ toÂ them, which is too bad in general but now it’s blatantly dangerous because it is they who are the ones bringing the warning that these bills are not just bad but deadly. The organic community, lulled by itsÂ ownÂ seemingÂ safety, hasn’t heard or understood.
But given what just happened with seed cleaning equipmentÂ (sorting), the methodÂ andÂ the intent are exposed. “Food safety” is the weapon, with public fear, kept at a high pitch, as the driver. After which, those running this game only needÂ toÂ set the bar at a “food safety” level impossibleÂ toÂ meetÂ andÂ apply horrendous punishments for not complying. Farmer is either crushed by that pincer move, or quits. Either way, his land is up for grabs.Â
And those severe punishments are essentialÂ toÂ control groups which will see the whole thing for what it is – insane in terms of farming and anything to do with health, a threatÂ toÂ survival,Â andÂ driven solely by profitÂ andÂ power. Â
So, one crucial piece of equipment (seed cleaning) is illegal nowÂ andÂ without most people realizing. AndÂ simply because a single “foods safety” bar has been raised. Â
In time, as moreÂ andÂ more farmers are forbidden from using their equipment, significant sources of organicÂ seedsÂ will beginÂ toÂ dry up, at which point the organic community would beginÂ toÂ ask what was going on. By then, it will be too late. Â
Why? Because look at the last item on the list – (seed)Â storingÂ facilities.
Farmers, gardeners, seed saving exchanges, seed companies, scientific seed projects,Â andÂ seed banks, all requireÂ sorting. All are working overtimeÂ toÂ protect biodiversity that is rapidly disappearing specifically because of genetic engineering. As Monsanto began reducing accessÂ toÂ seeds, people around the world have worked hardÂ toÂ compensate. Â
But now the effort is to take over the whole game,Â going after even these small sources of biodiversity – by simply definingÂ seedsÂ as foodÂ andÂ then all farmers’ affordableÂ mechanismsÂ for harvesting (collecting), sorting (seed cleaning)Â and storing (seed banking or saving) as too dirtyÂ toÂ be safe for food. Â
Set the standard for “food safety”Â andÂ certification high enough that no one can afford itÂ andÂ punish anyone who triesÂ toÂ save seed in ways that have worked fine for thousands of years, with a million dollar a day fineÂ and/or ten years in prison,Â andÂ presto, you have just criminalized seed banking. Â
The penalties are tremendous, the betterÂ toÂ protect us from nothing dangerous whatsoever, butÂ toÂ make monopoly over seed absolutely absolute. One is left with control over farmers, an endÂ toÂ seed exchanges,Â an endÂ toÂ organic seed companies,Â an endÂ toÂ university programs developing nice normal hybrids,Â andÂ an endÂ toÂ democracy – reducing usÂ toÂ abject dependence on corporations for foodÂ andÂ gratitude even for genetically engineered foodÂ andÂ at any price.
When you know that Monsanto with the help of the US government plundered ancientÂ andÂ rare seed banks in Iraq that heldÂ seedsÂ with a genetic heritage (a biohistory belongingÂ toÂ all of us) going back 1000s of yearsÂ andÂ then made it a crime for farmers thereÂ toÂ collect or use their own normalÂ and non-patentedÂ seedsÂ off their own land, you seeÂ howÂ extreme the intentÂ toÂ control is. Â
Now, perhaps it is possibleÂ toÂ seeÂ howÂ the identical thing is being done here, only it comes in a heavily, heavily disguised way – through “food safety” that isn’t “food safety” at all -Â andÂ quietly sittingÂ in only one tiny little paragraphÂ within a very large bill (and with no reference to seeds at all). Â
The Iraqis are now utterly at the mercy of MonsantoÂ andÂ the US for survival itselfÂ andÂ will haveÂ toÂ pay whatever prices are set for food. They can no longer just grow their ownÂ andÂ be free people. So, no matter what form of government they may ever have, as long as this is true, they are now enslaved because the control overÂ themÂ is that extreme. Kissinger was right – control foodÂ andÂ you control people.
We are inches from this ourselves. The left needsÂ toÂ wake up.
In Afghanistan, people are buyingÂ andÂ planting beans from America, which at the end of the season haveÂ nothing whatever inside, the pods are empty. In Ecuador, the potatoes there do not develop eyes so can’t be planted next seasonÂ toÂ grow potatoes. Â
Biotech’s claimÂ toÂ care about feeding starving multitudes is belied by its blocking human access to normalÂ seedsÂ andÂ its terminator technology (empty beans). Monopoly is monopoly is monopoly. AndÂ at this level,Â andÂ when it comesÂ toÂ seeds, which are life itself, monopoly terminates democracy as well as beans.
This trick of setting bars above any abilityÂ toÂ be in the game was doneÂ toÂ blacksÂ andÂ in realizing this, we must hold Obama accountable for pushing these bills, which are profound, civil and human rights abuses.
There are three other items of the list, which surely will be controlled as well. In total, that little list of six items (agricultural water, manure, harvesting, transporting and seed cleaning equipment, and seed storage facilities)Â contains the pieces to deconstruct farming itself, especially organic farming.