Tuesday, April 21, 2009

HR875--How freedoms are lost in the United States

Fascinating and distressing all at the same time.

Check out House Resolution 875 currently working its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.

Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut introduced the legislation. We ought not to ignore the fact that she is wife of Stan Greenberg, a lobbyist and one of Monsanto Corporation's chief political strategists.

First, and most onerous: HR875 requires all food producers to pre-register with the federal government, even if the food is produced for local (in-state) consumption (and not for interstate commerce . . . which is the sole function permitted to the federal government by the constitution). [See the definition of "Food Establishment" (subsection (13) and the definitions of the five different categories of "Food Establishment" in Sec. 3 (subsections (5) through (9) titled "Category __ Food Establishment"; also, subsections (14) and (19) in the same Section 3. Finally, then, Sec. 202(a) and (b), and, most tellingly, section 406: "In any action to enforce the requirements of the food safety law, the connection with interstate commerce required for jurisdiction shall be presumed to exist." --Emphasis added--JAH --In other words, all states' rights are conveniently swept away.

Does this matter? I hope to return to this in a subsequent post having to do with Raw Milk.]

But ignore the states' rights issue. Notice what this means to the small farmer, the family farm, and the family gardener.

You would think we would all be left off the hook by subsection (19), wouldn't you? "The term ‘process’ or ‘processing’ means the commercial slaughter, packing, preparation, or manufacture of food." --That has nothing to do with private, small-scale farms or personal gardens that produce food for our own consumption.

Or does it?

Check out the Supreme Court case of Wickard v Filburn (1942). According to Wikipedia,
In July 1940, pursuant to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, Filburn's 1941 allotment was established at 11.1 acres (45,000 m2) and a normal yield of 20.1 bushels of wheat per acre. Filburn was given notice of the allotment in July 1940 before the Fall planting of his 1941 crop of wheat, and again in July 1941, before it was harvested. Despite these notices Filburn planted 23 acres (93,000 m2) and harvested 239 bushels from his 11.9 acres (48,000 m2) of excess area.
Filburn was hauled into court for violation of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, even though Filburn produced the "excess" corn solely for home consumption; it was not part of the federal government's jurisdiction.

Oh, really? said the Supreme Court. And they rejected his argument,
reasoning that if Filburn had not used home-grown wheat he would have had to buy wheat on the open market. This effect on interstate commerce, the Court reasoned, may not be substantial from the actions of Filburn alone but through the cumulative actions of thousands of other farmers just like Filburn its effect would certainly become substantial. Therefore Congress could regulate wholly intrastate, non-commercial activity if such activity, viewed in the aggregate, would have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, even if the individual effects are trivial.
Oh. And you'd think this 60-some year-old decision might be overturned, wouldn't you?

Not likely. Not when "[t]he Supreme Court majority that decided the 2005 case Gonzales v. Raich relied heavily on Filburn in upholding the power of the federal government to prosecute individuals who grow their own medicinal marijuana pursuant to state law."

Moreover, consider that if you give some food away or try to sell a small quantity in a local farmer's market (as many small-scale and organic farmers do today): you (and they) may very readily fall afoul of this law.

And if you're not sure?

Check out Section 405 ("Civil and Criminal Penalties") . . . which notes, in subsection (a)(1)(A), that "Any person that commits an act that violates the food safety law (including a regulation promulgated or order issued under the food safety law) may be assessed a civil penalty by the Administrator of not more than $1,000,000 for each such act." --Oh. But notice how they define "each such act." Go on to subsection (a)(1)(B): "Each act described in subparagraph (A) and each day during which that act continues shall be considered a separate offense." [Emphasis added--JAH]

So notice what that means! "Guilty until proven innocent." --You'd better stop doing whatever-it-is you're doing or you'll face the possibility of a multi-million-dollar fine . . . unless and until you can get this new agency off of your back.

Ah! And then notice how these kinds of fines can be used! --Like the confiscation laws that police departments are using to enrich themselves at the expense of innocent people who are illegitimately charged with drugs infractions, take a look at Section 405(e): The Administrator of this leviathan "may use the funds in the account, without further appropriation or fiscal year limitation . . . to carry out enforcement activities under the food safety law."

Oh. And guess who will be given the right to certify any foreign "food establishment" as legally permitted to grow or process whatever food it is that they would like to grow and/or process and sell into the United States? Check out Section 208(k)! "Entities eligible for accreditation as a certifying agent . . . may include . . . a foreign or domestic cooperative that aggregates the products of growers or processors for importation." Is this an invitation to conflicts-of-interest, or what?

Oh, but the proposed law has a response to this concern, doesn't it? The very next section, 208(l) is very explicit: "To be eligible for accreditation . . . , a certifying agent shall--
(A) not be owned, managed, or controlled by any person that owns or operates an establishment whose products are to be certified by such agent;

(B) have procedures to ensure against the use, in carrying out audits of food establishments under this section, of any officer or employee of such agent that has a financial conflict of interest regarding an establishment whose products are to be certified by such agent; and

(C) annually make available to the Secretary, disclosures of the extent to which such agent, and the officers and employees of such agent, have maintained compliance with subparagraphs (A) and (B) relating to financial conflicts of interest.
Sounds pretty airtight, doesn't it?

Except, . . . even I, a non-lawyer, (but a business owner) know that section (B) includes a huge hole in it. My company has a number of employees; it also has a large number of independent contractors. They do what we want and need them to do in our behalf. We pay them for their services. They "just" don't happen to meet the legal requirements of being full-blown employees.

Interesting that nothing is said about such contract labor in behalf of an agent with a financial conflict of interest.

Oh. And the law is very explicit about this being a financial conflict of interest. How about other forms of conflict-of-interest?

And one last section that has small farmers and organic food advocates up in arms: the entire set of regulations, the law says, is intended "to establish science-based minimum standards for the safe production of food" (see Section 206(c)). "Science-based." Get that?

Pay attention, now!

That means this new agency, "Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act . . . shall promulgate regulations." And "Such regulations shall . . .
(2) require each food production facility to have a written food safety plan that describes the likely hazards and preventive controls implemented to address those hazards;
(3) include, with respect to growing, harvesting, sorting, and storage operations, minimum standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment, and water;
(4) include, with respect to animals raised for food, minimum standards related to the animal’s health, feed, and environment which bear on the safety of food for human consumption . . .
. . . And so forth.

Again, imagine being a small farmer and having to produce a "written food safety plan." --A "mere" few hundred dollars several years from now when some entrepreneurial lawyer creates a set of standardized electronic documents. But in the meantime?

And when it comes to "science," who knows better than a great big company like Monsanto (the world's largest producer and marketer of genetically engineered seed, bovine growth hormone, and that wonderful sugar substitute known as aspartame) [please understand that I was just speaking with huge tongue in cheek], right? Talk about "science"! They have it in spades.

But, then, what happens when the government--under the encouragement of a Monsanto--determines that something is "scientific" but simply ignores--because Monsanto itself won't provide such negative data--that speaks to the other side? For example,
MON863 [a Monsanto product] is a variety of maize genetically engineered to be resistant to corn rootworm and intended for human consumption. The MON863 grain is approved for human consumption in Japan, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and the European Union.

Both Monsanto experts, and independent toxicology experts attached to research institutions and food safety authorities internationally did not indicate statistically significant adverse effects. The European Food Safety Authority has found that "the placing on the market of MON863 is unlikely to have an adverse effect on human and animal health or the environment in the context of its proposed use."

However, a statistical analysis conducted on results of a Monsanto 90-day feeding study by Gilles-Eric Seralini, Dominique Cellier, and Joel Spiroux de Vendomois found it increased triglycerides in female rats by 20-40%, caused increased weight gain in female rats of 3.7%, a decrease in male rat weight of 3.3%, and increased certain indicators associated with liver and kidney toxicity.
Or consider Monsanto's Bovine somatotropin, abbreviated as rBST and commonly known as rBGH, a synthetic hormone injected into cows to increase milk production.
IGF-1 is a hormone stimulated by rBGH in the cow's blood stream, which is directly responsible for the increase in milk production. IGF-1 is a natural hormone found in the milk of both humans and cows causing the quick growth of infants. Though this hormone is naturally found in mothers[' milk] to be fed to their infants, it produces adverse effects in non-infants. IGF-1 behaves as a [breast, prostate, lung and colon] cancer accelerator in adults and non-infants. . . .

However, a large Monsanto-sponsored survey of milk showed no significant difference in rBST levels in milk labeled as "rBST-Free" or "Organic" vs milk not labeled as such.

According to the New York Times Monsanto's brand of rBST, Posilac, has . . . ([as of] March 2008) been the focus for a pro-rBST advocacy group called AFACT, made up of large dairy business conglomerates and closely affiliated with Monsanto itself. This group, whose acronym stands for American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology, has engaged in large-scale lobbying efforts at the state level to prevent milk which is rBST-free from being labeled as such.

As milk labeled as hormone-free has proved enormously popular with consumers, the primary justification by Afact for their efforts has been that rBST is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that the popularity of milk sold without it is damaging what they claim to be the right of dairy producers to use a technology that maximizes their profits.

Monsanto claims that labeling of hormone-free milk takes advantage of consumers by allowing higher prices for the milk by suggesting that it is "better" or "safer" than BST milk, when in fact, there is no difference. Monsanto is requesting that companies that advertise their milk as "rBST-free" be required to add the FDA label claiming that rBST has been found safe for human consumption and no differences exist between hormone and hormone-free milk.

Thus far, a large-scale negative consumer response to Afact's legislative and regulatory efforts has kept state regulators from pushing through strictures that would ban hormone-free milk labels, though several politicians have tried, including Pennsylvania's agriculture secretary Dennis Wolff, who tried to ban rBST-free milk labeling on the grounds that "consumers are confused".
Hey! If it's proven "scientifically" that hormone-laced milk is "best"--do you have any grounds to object? . . .

Sorry! Out of luck!


So what can you do about this monstrous bill?

Contact your US Representative and Senators and ask your representative to vote "NO" on HR875 and your senators to vote "NO" on SB425the Senate version of very similar legislation.

You can help yourself do that by going to Representatives on the Web and Senators on the Web, respectively.

Or contact your Representative via https:/writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml and your Senators at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=WI

If you happen to see that one of your Representatives or Senators is a co-sponsor of either of these bills, you might want to write and requesst that they remove themselves as a co-sponsor to the bill and want them to vote NO on it too!

Further coverage:

The 2009 Food 'Safety' Bills Harmonize Agribusiness Practices in Service of Corporate Global Governance


A Solemn Walk Through HR 875

. . . just to get you going.
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