Senate Bill 510: a threat to your free choice of food?—part one

December 22, 2010

By Susan Johnson
Copy Editor

The lame-duck Congress has rushed to pass a bill, originally known as S.510, that has far-reaching implications for the food you eat, the produce you buy, even the vegetables you grow in your garden. Under its latest title, H.R.2751, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, this new bill passed the Senate Dec. 19 with an amendment and an amendment to the title by voice vote. It was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) with 59 co-sponsors.

Earlier, on Nov. 30, S.510 had passed the Senate, 73-25, with 56 Democrats, 15 Republicans (including new Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk[R]) and two Independents voting for it. The House passed its own version, H.R.2749, last summer. Later this year, it was inserted into H.R. 3082—the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act 2011.

Some who follow agricultural issues have called S.510, “the most dangerous bill in the history of the United States of America.” Mike Adams, writing in Natural News, said: “It would grant the U.S. government new authority over the public’s right to grow, trade and transport any foods. This would give Big Brother the power to regulate the tomato plants in your back yard. It would grant them the power to arrest and imprison people selling cucumbers at farmer’s markets. It would criminalize the transporting of organic produce if you don’t comply with the authoritarian rules of the federal government.”

Under the food safety law, all food production in the U.S. would be under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, and along with this goes the power to arrest any backyard food producer as a felon for simply growing lettuce and selling it at a local farmer’s market. This law would also end U.S. sovereignty over our own food supply by ceding it to the authority of both the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Codex Alimentarius.

What do legislators say?

Earlier, The Rock River Times contacted Sen. Dick Durbin [D-Ill.] while the bill was being debated.

Christina Mulka, press secretary for Sen. Durbin’s office, said: “Senator Durbin is an original sponsor of S.510. He does support the bill. In general, Sen. Durbin is aware of the issue of local farmers’ markets. He is a big supporter of local farmers’ markets and does not want to unnecessarily burden them with legislative restrictions.”

In an e-mail to us, Mulka added, “Senator Durbin does not only support S.510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, but he is also the author of the bill.” A summary is available at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:s.00510.

On the proposed Tester Amendment, Durbin said: “Sen. Tester’s amendment will expand on the bill’s already robust protection for small farmers. He’s worked long and hard on this issue, and I thank him for it. But what is needed now is a strong bipartisan vote to give American families the protections they expect and deserve when they buy food. I look forward to having that vote after Thanksgiving. Every year, 76 million Americans suffer from preventable food-borne illness. 325,000 of our family members, friends and neighbors are hospitalized each year because of food contamination, and 5,000 die—100 a week. That means that every five minutes, three people are rushed to the hospital because the food they ate made them sick, and at the end of the day, 13 will die. It’s time we ensure that the food on America’s dinner tables is safe.”

Bill passed by House—Manzullo opposed

In reference to the original bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rich Carter, press secretary at U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo’s (R-16) office had earlier sent us the following statement from Rep. Manzullo:  “On June 8, 2009, Rep. John Dingell introduced H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. The legislation has an admirable goal to make further improvements to the safety of our food supply. I strongly support food safety in America. In fact, in 2007, I voted for the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (H.R. 3580) that improved FDA’s existing oversight of food and prescription drug safety. This bill was signed into law by President Bush (Public Law 110-85).

“However, I voted against H.R. 2749 because it went beyond these common sense reforms to broaden the FDA’s authority to regulate food facilities, costing over $2 billion over the next five years. Fees would be charged to cover most of the new spending in this bill. However, farmers would not be able to sell their products without paying this annual registration fee. This could be a burden particularly upon small farmers wishing to sell their product locally. The bill would also mandate that the FDA set on-farm production performance standards, which will be the first time the government tells farmers and ranchers how to do their jobs. In addition, this bill grants broad authority to the FDA to quarantine any geographic area within the United States if the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determines that an article of food presents an ‘imminent threat’ to human or animal health. This could have grave implications for farmers and ranchers in northern Illinois, who could be punished economically for doing nothing wrong because of one bad actor located hundreds of miles away.

“I believe we need to implement responsible policies that balance our nation’s health and well-being without imposing new, overly broad duplicative mandates on our farmers and food manufacturers. Nevertheless, H.R. 2749 passed the House on July 30, 2009, by a vote of 283 to 142. The bill now awaits action before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.”

In view of the latest action, on Tuesday, Dec. 21, Rich Carter gave us the following statement: “The Food Safety Act House version was the vehicle for the Continuing Resolution. The House passed that last week. Congressman Manzullo opposed it. The Senate was going to do it in the Omnibus bill, but that bill failed—they couldn’t get enough support. So they pulled the Omnibus out of it, and they just introduced a stand-alone version of the Food Safety Act in the Senate [H.R. 2751]. They passed that. The House was scheduled to pick it up today [Dec. 21]. Then it will go to the President for signing if it passes. It probably will. The House still has a strong Democratic majority. Congressman Manzullo will still oppose it, for the same reasons he opposed the original bill.”

What is Codex Alimentarius?

Brandon Turbeville, writing in “Codex Alimentarius—The End of Health Freedom” on infowars.com, explained: “Contrary to popular belief, Codex Alimentarius is neither a law nor a policy. It is in fact a functioning body, a Commission, created by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization (WHO) under the direction of the United Nations. The confusion in this regard is largely due to statements made by many critics referring to the ‘implementation’ of Codex Alimentarius as if it were legislation waiting to come into effect. A more accurate phrase would be ‘the implementation of Codex Alimentarius guidelines,’ as it would more adequately describe the situation.”

According to the goals of the individuals in charge of it, “Codex Alimentarius will be ‘implemented’ whenever guidelines are established and national governments begin to arrange their domestic laws in accordance with the standards set by the organization.”

The name Codex Alimentarius is Latin for “food code” and “directly descended from the Codex Alimentarius Austriacus, a set of standards and descriptions of a variety of foods in the Austria-Hungarian Empire between 1897 and 1911. This set of standards was the brainchild of both the food industry and academia and was used by the courts in order to determine food identity in a legal fashion,” said Turbeville.

Originally, an international set of standards was proposed to reduce barriers to trade created by differences in national laws. Then, Turbeville explains: “As the Codex Alimentarius gained steam in its localized area, the idea of having a single set of standards for all of Europe began to pick up steam as well. From 1954-1958, Austria successfully pursued the creation of the Codex Alimentarius Europaeus (the European Codex Alimentarius). Almost immediately, the UN-directed FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization)… expressed the desire for a global international set of standards for food. The FAO Regional Conference then sent a proposal up the chain of command to the FAO itself with the suggestion to create a joint FAO/WHO programme dealing with food standards. The very next year, the Codex Alimentarius Europaeus adopted a resolution that its work on food standards be taken over by the FAO. In 1961, it was decided by the WHO, Codex Alimentarius Europaeus, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the FAO Conference to create an international food standards programme known as the Codex Alimentarius. In 1963, as a result of the resolutions passed by these organizations two years earlier, Codex Alimentarius was officially created.”

No more heirloom seeds or natural food

Richard Smith, a creative strategy marketing consultant and author at http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/20, said, “S.510 includes, at a minimum,

→ a hidden takeover of all seed in the U.S.—the end of the country’s control over its food and ensuring all Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)—corporate-owned crops;

→ the use of DHS [Department of Human Services] and DOD [Department of Defense]—animal disease or contamination as a pretext for martial law;

→ the extermination of normal farm animals in case of an emergency (to replace with patented Genetically Engineered or GE-animals and force GMO meat);

→ the surreptitious arrangement for mandating of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, irradiation of all food and GMO farming;

→ deceitfully forcing the U.S. under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to end its sovereignty over its own economic policy, resources, energy, health, food;

→ the theft of all U.S. farmland via false ‘traceability’ requirements which force farmers into international contracts that remove their property rights;

→ the removal of nutritional supplements because they are the proven superior treatments for cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, and are essential for preventing disease—ensuring greatly increased illnesses for corporate profit;

→ a corporate court outside the judicial system over all Americans, with unlimited penalties and no recourse—ending democratic rights in the U.S.”

Mike Adams, again, in Natural News: “This is obviously designed to give corporations like Monsanto a monopoly over seeds.”

Specific concerns about the bill

Citizens for Health, an independent consumer group, outlines what the bill says and their main concerns with it. According to their fact sheet, the problems may be summarized as follows:

1) What the bill says: If the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) believes that there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to an article of food (and any other article of food the Secretary believes is likely to be affected in a similar manner) will cause health consequences, then the source would have to give HHS access to all of its records.

Our concerns: Simply believing there’s a potential hazard isn’t enough—there should be proof before HHS intrudes upon the livelihood of  health food retailers and manufacturers. Also: what constitutes “reasonable” and by whom is it determined? Evidence should be clear and definitive.

2) What the bill says: It mandates use of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) as a means of identifying sources of contamination.

Our concern: HACCP is a risk-based algorithmic approach to food safety that allows many shortcuts and involves a monumental amount of expensive paperwork and record keeping with NO improvements in on-site, physical inspections.

3) What the bill says: If the Secretary determines… that there is a reasonable probability that an article of food is adulterated or misbranded… the Secretary shall provide the responsible party an opportunity to cease distribution and recall such an article.

Our concern: As with No. 1 above, what level of evidence will constitute “reasonable” probability? Also, the words “adulterated” and “misbranded” have been applied by the FDA so liberally over the years that they’ve become watered down as descriptors of contamination.

4) What the bill says: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed in a manner inconsistent with the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization or any other treaty or international agreement to which the U.S. is a party.”

Our concern: No other countries ensure that all of their internal regulations are consistent with the WTO or any other treaty or international agreement—so why should the United States sacrifice its sovereignty? As if that wasn’t reason enough, we all share the concern about what might happen to the affordability of—and especially our access to—the products and services we choose to maintain our health and wellness if the United States was required to harmonize with the WTO, SPS, the Uruguay Rounds and Codex!

In an interview with Citizens for Health’s James Gormley, health-freedom attorney Jonathan Emord explained what’s wrong with S.510: “The major problem with the bill is that it fails to recognize, let alone protect against, abuses that are common in the inspection process. Moreover, it creates a financial incentive for FDA to perform inspections of facilities as a revenue-raising measure or as a means to penalize financially a company disfavored by the agency. The notion that expanding FDA inspection authority will somehow arrest instances of adulteration is absurd. FDA inspects after complaints are made, not before, and FDA inspections are rarely the means by which the market acts to protect consumers from harm. Most often, the company itself acts to reduce the risk of product liability…  At a time when the nation can ill afford imposition of yet another tax on companies that make essential products, this Congress in its ‘infinite wisdom’ is doing precisely that. S.510 is a bad idea that will not work to stop adulteration but will enable the FDA to abuse its power…”

In a general statement connecting it to the health reform legislation, Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sibelius said: “The mission of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to protect the nation’s health and provide essential human services… it is a core responsibility of HHS, through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to ensure the food we eat is safe. Toward that end, I am firmly committed to working with my colleagues at the Department of Agriculture to achieve the President’s goal of upgrading and strengthening our food safety system; restoring trust in the FDA as the leading science-based, regulatory agency in the world; and fulfilling our obligation to the American people to ensure that the food they purchase and serve to their families is safe to eat. For more information, please visit www.foodsafety.gov.”

Problems with ethanol

Another item of concern to some people is that H.R. 3082, the Continuing Appropriations Act, includes spending on “expiring subsidies for ethanol and other alternative-energy sources.” It takes 7 gallons of oil to make one gallon of ethanol, causing your car to run 10 percent less efficiently with only a 15 percent blend. Congress wants higher blends of ethanol. Yet, the emissions from ethanol-containing fuel contain more carcinogens than pure gasoline emissions.

Then, there is the problem of water consumption. Minnesota is the only state that has published water use of ethanol plants. Their use is 3.5 to 6 gallons of water used for each gallon of ethanol produced. This is competing for water use for crops. (http://www.agobseratory.org/library.cfm?refid=89449)

To be continued…

Editor’s note: Please contact your federal legislators to express your viewpoint on this important legislation. You may go to the main page of our website and click on “Contact Your Elected Officials” on the left side of the website for contact information.

From the Dec. 22-28, 2010 issue

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