Letter: Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? A preview of H.R. 875


By on Sat, April 11, 2009

This question for Mary will become even more pertinent if a bill proposed by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, CT (R) makes it through congress. It may only be a coincidence that DeLauro’s husband, pollster Stanley Greenberg, happened to have Monsanto as his client 10 years ago, but the wording in some sections of the bill just smells like a fermenting nightmare.

The bill? H.R. 875.

Sec 3 (14) FOOD PRODUCTION FACILITY- The term ‘food production facility’ means any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.

Relative to the above section, a “small business concern”, as mentioned in Sec. 201 (c)(12), is defined according to the Small Business Act, Sec. 3(a), as having gross receipts over $750,000. Many smaller farms (particularly a farm “grossing” only $750K, would fall under the umbrella of having to conform to the restrictions and guidelines contained in this bill that only a large commercial agricultural concern could easily adopt.

Sec 101 (b)(5)(C) development of consistent and science-based standards for safe food (emphasis added)

Who decides what standards are science-based? If the benchmark is set by Monsanto’s GMO and pesticide standards, nothing short of eliminating organic and biodynamic farming will be acceptable.

Sec 103 (b) …….. (b) Experts and Consultants- The Administrator may– (1) procure the services of temporary or intermittent experts and consultants as authorized by section 3109 of title 5, United States Code;

Here again, what qualifications do Monsanto oriented experts and consultants have regarding the nutritional requirements of an organic operation?

103(d) Advisory Committees- (1) IN GENERAL- The Administrator shall establish advisory committees that consist of representatives of scientific expert bodies, academics, industry specialists, and consumers.

Again, who is part of these expert bodies and what qualifies someone as an “industry specialist”?

206 (c)(3) ……. Such regulations shall 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;

Fertilizer? Like that containing pesticides and herbicides? The people who are running the show right now have only heard of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) fertilizers. That takes care of the “macro”-nutrients. What about the “MICRO”-nutrients that support the plants immune system so that they don’t need pesticides to protect them from the insects? What about the rock dust bases, top dressing, seaweed, manure, and foliar feeding techniques?

What makes it worse, more relative to personal use, is the following: (read it carefully)

SEC. 301. PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT SYSTEM (c)(2)(A) …… a comparison of the safety of commercial processing with the health hazards associated with food that is harvested for recreational or subsistence purposes and prepared noncommercially

This last section automatically implies that commercially processed food is inherently safer than produce grown in your own home garden.

As with any proposed bill, public approval or outcry is what finally hones any bill into its final draft. That’s assuming that the public understands the intent and the true impact of the legislation. In the case of HR 875, Representatives Anna Eshoo, and five other Democratic legislators form California; Fortney Stark, Bob Filner, Barbara Lee, Sam Farr, and Linda Sanchez, have all signed on as cosponsors to this bill, along with 33 others from around the country. It does not appear that they fully understand the implications and wording of Sec 301 (c)(2)(A), either singly, or when addressed within the scope of the previous mentioned other sections. The language of “industry experts”, “scientific expert bodies”, and “industry specialists” doesn’t mean much if Monsanto grade standards are used as the benchmark for growing produce.

While I am sure the bill has some good intentions regarding avoiding any new recurrence of the E. coli laden spinach from three California counties (those are San Benito, Monterey, and Santa Clara) and the Salmonella laden peanuts from Blakely GA, whether or not businesses with only $750,000 in gross receipts will even have the financial where-with-all to comply with this bill is an important consideration.

The problems that we have seen with E. coli and Salmonella have little to do with the practices of organic or biodynamic farming, itself; more that the fast pace of commercial agriculture and the race for outfits like Trader Joe’s to present organic produce to its customers at the lowest possible price have forced suppliers to cut corners as the term “organic” continues to become more bastardized by the Sacramento and Washington legislatures. Thus, those retailers that would attempt to circumvent the very meaning of the term “organic” by forcing its growers and suppliers to adopt farming practices that the general industry has been chastised for, for decades, should themselves be chastised, not the practice of growing food as has been done for countless millennia.

Hopefully, somewhere in the wording of this bill, there can be some safe haven for companies who ARE willing to do it all right, who are using the right materials and procedures, and too, those individual backyard gardeners who know that what they have grown by hand is probably nutritionally superior to anything that we customarily see in the average supermarket.

Frank Long Oasis Natural Foods, Half Moon Bay