By James J. Gormley
Courtesy of The Gormley Files
As you may know, the so-called Food Safety and Modernization Act cleared the U.S. House of representatives by a vote of 215 to 144 less than two days after Senate Republicans gave a surprise “victory” to the legislation’s advocates by allowing legislators to move the package by questionable, legislative sleight-of-hand, otherwise called unanimous consent.
“This legislation is the product of a flawed process,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, the top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, as reported by FarmPolicy.com. “It gives the Food and Drug Administration lots of additional authorities with no accountability.” (Listen to Congressman Lucas’ comments here.)
Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, the ranking GOP member on the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA, told The Washington Post that the number of cases of food-borne illnesses in the country does not justify the $1.4 billion the new law is estimated to cost over the first five years.
“We’re going to have to evaluate everything and set priorities at a time of reduced appropriations for all the different discretionary programs,” Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) told the Post.
Latham serves on the FDA appropriations subcommittee and, along with Kingston and the panel’s two other Republicans, voted against the food safety bill. The food safety legislation “is going to have to compete with everything else,” he told the Post.
The Act would cost American taxpayers $825 million in 2011 alone ($1.4 billion over the first five years) and does not even touch the root causes of the U.S.’s food safety problems — such as factory-farming — which were highlighted in both a 2009 campaign by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and by a letter to 99 U.S. senators by the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF USA).
In fact, the legislation, at it stands now, is saddled with an extreme overreliance on a risk algorithm-based approach to food safety, referred to as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and an under-reliance on old-fashioned, on-site physical inspections.
This bill, despite its name and intent, would not make this country’s food supply more safe, but less safe.
If this bill were to become law, it would be a multi-billion dollar boondoggle that would make our food safety system much more complex, more focused on hazards analysis than on physical inspections and no less beset by dirty factory farms and filthy slaughterhouses than it was before.
Please ask President Obama to veto this legislation so that consumers — not industry lobbyists and agri-business cronies — can develop a true food safety bill that will improve this country’s food-safety system, not bog it down with paperwork, smoke and mirrors.