By Rady Ananda
By a vote of 74 to 25, at noon today, the U.S. Senate voted for cloture on S 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which means it must now be voted on in the full Senate within 60 days. All amendments to the controversial food control bill must be completed by that time.
One of S 510′s supporters, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, opposed cloture because modifications to the bill do not reflect its original intent, he said on C-SPAN. Chambliss fully supports giving the FDA more power over the US food supply, but is unhappy with the Manager’s Amendment submitted in August.
He objects to the small farm exclusion on the grounds that the $500,000 annual gross revenue limit is an arbitrary number that is too quickly reached by small farms. He called for numerous amendments to the bill as it appears today.
Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio supports S 510, and called out the statistics by the Centers for Disease Control that report there are 76 million foodborne illnesses a year, with 5,000 resulting in death. What Brown did not say was that the FDA — the very agency further empowered by S 510 — is responsible for the approval of pharmaceutical drugs that result in 100,000 deaths a year.
None of the supporters of S 510 will acknowledge the corrupt nature of the Food and Drug Administration. Monsanto executives now work at the FDA or on President’s Obama’s Food Safety Task Force.
What legislators continue to ignore from the public is that we do not support giving federal agencies even more power — especially over something as inherently private as food choices.
None of the legislators will discuss the FDA raids on natural food operations which sickened no one, while it allowed Wright County Egg to sicken people for decades before finally taking action.
Yesterday, Senator Bob Casey informed his Pennsylvania constituents that the $1.6 billion price tag for S 510 will stop food smuggling in the United States. I kid you not:
“These provisions add personnel to detect, track and remove smuggled food and call for the development and implementation of strategies to stop food from being smuggled into the United States.”
Is food smuggling a problem in the United States? Well, the “biggest food smuggling case in the history of the U.S.” busted wide open in September. Eleven Chinese and German executives were indicted for bringing in $40 million worth of commercial grade honey over a five year period, reportedly to avoid paying $80 million in import fees. (No wonder they tried smuggling.)
That amounts to 3 percent of the 1.35 billion-dollar honey market over a five-year period.
Since that was the biggest food smuggling bust, food smuggling is not the problem. Clearly. It hardly seems worth it for the US taxpayer to cough up $1.6 billion so the FDA can stop such illegal activities, especially in our current economic recession.
Blogger Steve Green interprets the S 510 smuggling language to mean:
“It would allow the government, under Maritime Law, to define the introduction of any food into commerce (even direct sales between individuals) as smuggling into “the United States.” Since under that law, the US is a corporate entity and not a location, “entry of food into the US” covers food produced anywhere within the land mass of this country and “entering into” it by virtue of being produced.”
§309 defines it as:
“In this subsection, the term ‘smuggled food’ means any food that a person introduces into the United States through fraudulent means or with the intent to defraud or mislead.”
Although only 150 new hires will be responsible for food smuggling under S 510, the total number of new hires sought is at least 18,000 employees.
This is absurd. Food smuggling is not the problem with food safety. Tainted food comes from monopoly operations in a highly centralized food system. Break up the monopolies and revert to localized food systems to ensure food safety. Let local authorities control local food safety.