Get ready to say goodbye to those organic veggies and fruits from your favorite farmers market or CSA if a new food law, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), goes into effect as currently written.
FSMA was enacted by Congress in 2010. According to the†U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the law “aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.” Clearly this is a goal that we can all get behind, and we applaud the notion of FSMA being able to help prevent the outbreaks of food-borne illnesses that are becoming more frequent.
Over the past two decades, the number of farmers markets in America has quadrupled to 8,144. At the same time, supermarkets, restaurants, schools, hospitals and other wholesale buyers are increasingly using food they procured from local farmers, which is great news. This is fresh produce generally grown without pesticides, herbicides or GMO seeds.
However, those new food safety rules may actually put a halt to some of our healthy eating habits. That is, if the regulations take effect as currently written. Citizens still have time to voice their concerns, as the FDA is currently taking comments through Friday, November 15.
The problem is the impact of the proposed rules on small farms. The FDA rules may drive some farms out of business because those with less than $500,000 in sales that sell mostly to commercial customers would have to pay four to six percent of their gross revenue to comply with the new regulations.
How can this be happening? The answer is depressingly familiar, as†truthout explains:
First, it is partially due to corporate profit. Corporations depend on a global supply chain, and in doing so they are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver safe food. At the same time they are losing market share to the local food systems that customers are demandingówitness the sharp increase in farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSAs), and restaurants offering “farm to fork” menus. To avoid legal liability, the corporations want to legitimize an industrial approach to sterilizing everything, without regard to the unnecessary and costly burden placed on local farmers.
And, finally, there is this Administration’s commitment to the bio-tech industry. It’s no accident that FDA’s deputy commissioner responsible for food safety, Michael R. Taylor, is a former Monsanto Vice President. That partially explains why the “safe food” mandate does nothing to protect us from genetically engineered food, and the harsh chemicals that are necessarily paired with it.
Here’s a sampling of what could disappear if the FDA has its way:
1. Your Favorite Heirloom Tomatoes: The new rules could cost farmers over half of their profits and will keep beginners from starting to farm. As a result of the high costs of compliance for both the†Produce and Preventive Controls Rules, FDA anticipates that some farmers will go out of business and fewer people will start to farm.
2.† Locally Grown Peppers: Although the rules set modified requirements for small and very small businesses, the FDA has not settled on a definition for “very small business” and has presented only unrealistic options. This means that thousands of farms could be regulated like big industrial food manufacturers, and small operations could be regulated with compliance costs too high for them to stay in business.
3.† Fresh Strawberries: It will be hard for mid-size farms to diversify their operations because all food grown on the farm counts toward the $500,000 income eligibility test, including covered crops like strawberries. So a small pick-your-own strawberry operation on a 800-acre corn and soybean farm, bringing in $25,000, could be subject to the same expensive, burdensome requirements as California’s†mega-scale packaged berry industry.
4.† Pickles and Salsa: The rules fail to protect a host of low-risk processing activities done by smaller farms and processors, including the making of pickles and salsa. Farmers adding value to their crops through this processing would be subject to the same regulations as high-risk processing activities by large corporations.
5. Spring Apples: Another problem is that the rules will make it extremely difficult for farmers to use†compost and manures as fertilizer. These natural systems are extremely important for organic and sustainable farmers and the new rules would stop most farmers from utilizing them.
Contact the FDA before the end of the day on Friday, November 15 to voice your concern over these potentially devastating regulations.
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