by Brad Jordan
After two years of delay, the Food Safety Modernization Act is finally about to go into effect. The FDA is moving forward with rules that are supposed to make food in the United States the safest in the world.
Hailed as the most sweeping overhaul of farm and food policy since the Great Depression, some fear the law will actually make our food supply less safe by regulating small, organic farmers out of business and leaving it in the hands of a few mega farmers and processors.
“So what exactly is the government going to do to make our food safer?” I was wondering the other day. While I hoped for the labeling of GMOs and the removal and the word “natural” from products that aren’t natural, I knew the FDA would come up with an idea like putting port-a-potties with sinks in the middle of farm fields. And sure enough, that’s exactly what they did. With that, they also want food heated at higher temperatures to kill any bacteria that may be present, good or bad, and a host of other ill-conceived ideas that will prevent us from accessing nutrient-dense foods.
I recently spoke with Judith McGeary, founder of Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of independent farmers, ranchers, and homesteaders. Judith is also an attorney, a farmer, and a Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader in Austin, Texas.
McGeary has been following the Food Safety Modernization Act since it was first proposed a couple of years ago. Initially she feared the coming food safety regulations would be so costly for small farmers that they’d go out of business. Since then, farms with less than half a million dollars in annual sales have been exempted from the legislation.
But after reviewing the FDA’s proposed rules, she is still leery for several reasons.
Pay up, I’ll protect you
First, half a million dollars in sales might sound like a lot, but farmers only keep 10 to 15 percent of that in profits. That means it could cost farmers making as little as $50,000 a year as much as $10,000 annually to comply with the new rules. That’s a fifth of their income eaten up by regulation.
Second, the state, with all its power, could wave its magic wand and declare an “outbreak or emergency” and “un”exempt farmers earning even less than $50,000.
Third, on top of the cost in dollars, the law will cost farmers time. Farmers, especially small farmers who can’t afford legal counsel, don’t have time to mull through and comply with 1200 pages of new rules and regulations, many of which are vague and poorly written. Tracking the origin and destination of every crop sold, for example, isn’t going to benefit the farmer or the consumer of local foods. It may help the government hire another unnecessary worker to come and check the farmers’ books though, so why not?
As if filling out paperwork wasn’t bad enough, the agency wants to tell farmers what they can and cannot use to fertilize their crops, right down to the type of compost they can use.
The FDA seems to be scared of anything that was ever part of an animal. If you don’t follow their instructions to the letter, which includes extensive documentation of how the compost was made, you have to treat compost — including worm castings — as if it were raw animal manure and wait 9 months in between putting the compost down and harvesting the crop. In practice, this is a death knell for the use of many types of compost, which are vital to growing food sustainably.
This intrusive, restrictive approach to compost is a stark contrast to the agency’s attitude about the spraying of toxic chemicals on food, which doesn’t seem to concern it much at all.
What does all this mean for consumers? Well, expect local, sustainable food prices to go up. Thanks FDA, for making their lives harder and mine more expensive.
If it’s alive, they want it dead
The FDA’s solution to eliminating any possibility of dangerous pathogens is to kill everything. In addition to pasteurizing juices and other processed and packaged foods, the agency would like all “fresh” fruits and vegetables to be irradiated. Yes, that means zapped with radiation. While potentially killing deadly bacteria, this process also kills living enzymes and good bacteria that help build our immune systems. Is this what consumers really want? A bunch of irradiated bags of lettuce that have gone through a giant processing plant, leaving green leaves stripped of the nutrients they once contained? I for one, don’t.
It seems, as usual, the government is making things worse instead of better. A simple way to curb contamination would be to stop subsidizing the mega farms that are causing the problem. Let the free markets figure it out. I think I know what type of farm would win. The local, sustainable farmers have more incentive to do what is right for the consumer and the environment, because they rely on the consumer – not government subsidies – for their paychecks.
If more people took ownership of themselves, and the food they were eating, we wouldn’t need government officials intervening. Yes, that means, getting up off of your ass and visiting the farmer, or at least giving him a call to discuss how your food is being made. If more consumers started talking to their farmers directly and holding them accountable, they’d have more of an incentive to provide good quality, nutrient-dense foods. I mean if I walked on to the farm and saw chemicals being sprayed on the crops, I wouldn’t buy his products. If, after talking to a few people who worked on the farm, I learned the smell in the air was coming from a shit lagoon up around the bend, I wouldn’t buy his products. See where I’m going?
It all starts with food
After reading Harry Brown’s book this weekend, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, I realize bold action is required in order for change to occur in our lives. So, if you’re eating irradiated, chemically fabricated, pre-packaged foods, take action today, and start eating nutrient dense, non-processed, whole foods. Visualize how it will feel and taste eating homemade stews made from real bone stock, butter from freshly milked grass-fed cows, and pasture raised chicken eggs cooked in lard on your cast iron skillet. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. If you can’t visualize how fantastic these foods will taste, visualize a Lean Cuisine cooking away in your microwave, with its rubber stamped FDA approval. Then ask yourself if bold action is required. Is it time for a change? Is it time to eat free or die?
If your answer is yes to any of the following, do some research, find out where you can get raw milk (email me, if you have to) and pasture-raised chicken eggs. Once you have these items, take a deep breath, and realize your life is about to change. Crack open an egg and disregard the white that surrounds the golden orange yolk, and put that yolk in a blender, add another if you’re feeling wild. Pour in a couple cups of fresh, grass fed, milk from your bottle, where the cream sits a couple inches on top. Blend up some of nature’s most perfect foods.
Now, pour that concoction into a glass and walk in front of mirror. Put on a podcast from foodriotradio.com. I recommend the Mark Baker interview, for extra inspiration. Now look at yourself, with your own eyes. Realize this is the beginning. This is the first day of the rest of your life. Grab that glass with both hands because they’ll be sweaty and you’ll be anxious and you don’t want to drop what you’ve worked so hard for. Throw that drink back and take a big swallow. Set it down and look at yourself again. See the sparkle in your eye? Feel the change taking place in your body? Now you feel the power of food. It feels good, doesn’t it? You feel alive for the first time in years. The awakening has occurred. You’ve been baptized into the real food movement. Now go spread the word to others and grow the revolution because its message is finally here. Freedom baby, freedom.
Listen to Brad’s interview with Judith McGeary here.
Brad Jordan hosts a podcast called Food Riot Radio. He and his co-host Sara Burrows work to expose how a collusion between government, big agriculture, big pharma and big food has determined what ends up on our plates and offer ideas for how to fight back.
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