Organic Farming Jeopardized?

Ed Note:  I sent out an email with concerns regarding HR 875 this week and received more email responses on both side of the issue than I have time to respond to.  Many writers referred me to

One write cautioned me that they felt has a more neutral tone when it comes to evaluating and analysis of facts.  She said they also seem to dig into the issue more and present more of the background behind the statements and/or commentary.  Decide for yourself.

However, the following response was received from Greg Davis and also a friend of mine, Rhoda, who give yet another viewpoint, food for thought, and many other informative links for doing further research if you feel so led.   I am reprinting the following information with permission.

Greg Davis writes based on information posted at Organic Consumers Association:

<<<HR 875 is a food safety bill that, as it is currently drafted, could be applied to all farms, including certified organic and farm-to-consumer operations. The bill would require farms to have a food safety plan, allow their records to be inspected, and comply with food safety regulations.

For the record, Organic Consumers Association does have an alert on HR875. As OCA points out in our Action Alert, we cannot support a “food safety” bill unless it provides protection or exemptions for organic and farm-to-consumer producers and cracks down on the real corporate criminals who are tampering with and polluting our nation’s food supply.

Having said that, OCA supports aspects of HR875 that call for mandatory recalls of tainted food, increased scrutiny of large slaughterhouses and food manufacturers, and hefty fines against companies that send poisonous food to market. The now discredited ultra-libertarian notion that companies or the “market” will regulate themselves is not only ludicrous, but dangerous, whether we are talking about the banking system or the food and farming sector.

When researching this issue, Organic Consumers Association turned to trusted sources within the organic farming community. We suggest the following resource for further reading:

An Integrated Approach to Food Safety
Russell Libby, Executive Director
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Letter from the Farmers Market Coalition on HR 875” style=”border-width:0px;margin:0px;padding:0px;text-decoration:none;font-weight:bold;color:rgb(0, 102, 102)””_blank” target=”_blank”>…

Organic food healthier and more intensively inspected-but not magically protected from humans or pathogens
Rodale Institute

To get a sense of the food safety issues that Congress is trying to deal with, read Jill Richardson’s (La Vida Locovore) write-up of a March 19, 2009, hearing in the House Energy & Commerce subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations on the salmonella peanut butter outbreak :

Of course, Monsanto and large corporate agribusiness are out to destroy traditional farming. Unfortunately, while many people have been distracted by HR 875, the biotech companies have been hard at work pushing their agenda (see below). We need to keep working together to work towards positive alternatives, such as organic agriculture and the green economy.

A ban on rBGH-free labeling from Monsanto’s successor Eli Lilly
A bill that is working its way through the Kansas legislature would prevent farmers from labeling any dairy products sold in Kansas as being “free” of genetically modified bovine growth hormone (rbST or rBGH). Farmers could say that the product comes from cows that haven’t received injections of the artificial bovine growth hormone, which stimulates milk production (and increases the use of antibiotics and the presence of pus in milk). However, such products would also be forced to include disclaimers saying that the federal government has found no significant difference between milk from cows injected with rbST and milk from those that have not received the hormone. While there is an exemption for certified organic milk, OCA opposes this law. It has Monsanto’s fingerprints all over it. The revolving door that brought Monsanto executives through the FDA is the reason the federal government took the position that there’s no difference between milk produced with or without rbST. Monsanto sold rbST to Eli Lilly in August 2008, but the pro-rbST strategy hasn’t changed much.

Monsanto uses closed-door lobbying to block Montana bill that would protect farmers
Montana Senators sidelined a seed bill that sought standards for how biotech companies test crops for patent infringement, burying the bill after getting a private dinner with Monsantorepresentatives.

Epitopix’s E. coli vaccine
A vaccine for E. coli has been conditionally approved by the USDA. Now the USDA can force this new animal drug on all beef and dairy producers rather than focus on the cause of E. coli and its spread, feeding cows grain instead of grass, confining cows in pens where they wade in manure their whole lives right up to slaughter, and the manure lagoons that leak into the water and onto nearby vegetable farms.…amp;TM=58133.16

Monsanto’s gene-altered drought-resistant corn
The chemical companies have yoked farmers with increasingly expensive and ineffective fossil-fuel-based inputs that contribute to global warming. Now they propose another techno-fix: gene-altered drought-tolerant crops. Trouble is, the crops don’t do well under non-drought conditions. Monsanto invests $2.6 million daily in its research. Think how many people could be eat healthy food on long-term, sustainable basis if Monsanto and its partner the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invested $2.6 each day in organic agriculture!

Indian farmers protest Monsanto seed experiments that threaten their farms
One farmer said, “Monsanto is a criminal corporation known to have sued or sent to jail scores of farmers elsewhere for doing what farmers around the world have done for millennia — saving their seeds.”” style=”border-width:0px;margin:0px;padding:0px;text-decoration:none;font-weight:bold;color:rgb(0, 102, 102)””_blank” target=”_blank”>…>>>>

I also received the following note from a personal friend who had tried very small scale farming about 8-10 years ago.  Rhoda writes:

Hi Marilyn,

I read (mostly skimmed) through this bill following the link you provided.  Though most bills are too vague and have pitfalls and interpretation problems, bills that control our food supply are particularly troubling for me.  I believe this bill can be trouble, however, as I read some of the definitions I see exceptions to the law.  I’ll copy the parts below:

(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).

(14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term `food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

I’m not a lawyer, and this language is always difficult for me, but, in reading the above, it seems that small farms will be excluded.  One part that bothers me, though, is in definition #5:

(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.

When we lived in Pitkin and started the egg business, I called the U.S. Dept. of Health in Denver to see if I could.  The man told me I could sell eggs to friends and neighbors without being inspected, but I couldn’t sell to stores or restaurants for retail sales.  We also looked into selling butchered chickens, but we would be subject to inspection if we butchered or transferred them for sale.  We could, however, sell the live birds and process them as a service (without charging for that) to get around the law.  The problem I see with the #5 definition is that the department of agriculture already controls food establishments that slaughter animals for food.  So, who are they going after, and what am I not understanding about this legislation?

If you have, or receive, any more insight into this bill, I’m interested in hearing it.  In my reading of this, it seems that there’s something they’re wanting to control outside of the usual, but it also seems they’ve excluded any other place that would process food (outside of wild game, the only category not covered in the definitions).  The biggest concerns are 1) they’re trampling on state’s rights, and 2) I know there’s a woman in congress who’s husband is an executive at Monsanto, and she’s been trying to enact legislation which favors that company for a while.  Remember, too, that the state dept. of ag. is already the federal government’s food police in matters of inspection concerning restaurants, slaughterhouses, and farms, ranches and food processing facilities which ship their products out for public consumption.

This bill would just enhance and widen their reach.  I’ll pass this on, but most of the people on my list probably won’t understand the implications.

I’m sure the recent problems with salmonella in the food supply is helping to carry this and may cause people to want it to help “protect” them from food-borne illnesses.  I could use more info to help persuade, so if you receive any, please pass it on.  Thanks!>>>

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2 comments to Organic Farming Jeopardized?

  • One of my friends sent me your letter… I posted it on my blog also! Thank you for helping us all be aware of what is currently happening. I am totally appalled at what is going on in the food industry today!!!

  • Rhoda

    Hi Marilyn,

    A correction to my comment: “2) I know there’s a woman in congress who’s husband is an executive at Monsanto, and she’s been trying to enact legislation which favors that company for a while.” I now understand her husband was a consultant for Monsanto at one time.

    If a person follows the SNOPES link at the bottom of their write-up on HR 875, “Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund”, they’ll read this group’s objections to the bill which, it seems to me, have the same concerned language as the “rumor” SNOPES said is mostly false, but with much more depth in analyzing the bill.


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