A vote is likely today or tomorrow on the Food Safety Bill S510, a bill that will affect food quality, safety and price– and the rights to health supplements– for years to come. Yesterday author Michael Pollan added his voice to the group of citizens and organizations urging people to contact their Senators to assure that the bill that passes will not undermine the movement of organic, local sustainable growers and food producers.

Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) as well as the Organic Consumers Organization want concrete assurances that the bill, as written, won’t apply the regulations explicitly crafted to regulate large industrial facilities (factory farms and industrial agriculture and manufacturers) to small businesses (family farmers, organic growers, farmer’s markets, food artisans and local suppliers).

A number of groups have been working behind the scenes, knee deep in legislative policy discussions aiming to achieve flexibility for the burgeoning consumer-driven industry in healthier, locally grown foods, supplied by small to medium size operations– as well as for health supplements.

As of now, a refinement of the bill, unveiled last summer, states that “raw agricultural commodities that the Secretary has determined are low risk and do not present a risk of serious adverse health consequences or death” may at the discretion of the FDA Secretary be asked to comply to modified regulations only. In addition, this new version omits “any requirements that conflict with or duplicate the requirements of the national organic program established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990…” This is a step forward for organic and smaller growers.

However, since that protection is discretionary (and since the new FDA Food Czar is a former Monsanto executive) that protection would be enhanced by the Tester Amendment, proposed by Senator Jon Tester. That amendment got support yesterday from Pollan, Schlosser, and 128 national organizations. Its provisions would assure that small businesses (under 500k in sales), and those who sell direct to consumers would be exempted from onerous paper work and compliance provisions, necessary only for large industrial suppliers. The concern has been that the costs of compliance and paperwork would drive small suppliers out of business. To assure that the Tester Amendment is included in the bill, please go here to call your Senator, and urge to him vote “Yes” for the Tester Amendment, and “No” to cloture and/or the bill without it.

With dietary supplements recently outlawed abroad, there was tremendous concern about this bill being a Trojan Horse for a take down of the healthy supplements industry. New language has been added to exempt “…any dietary supplement that is in compliance with the requirements of sections 402(g)(2) and 761 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 USC 242(g)(2), 379aa-1).”

Finally, there has been concern that S510 would enforce automatic harmonization with CODEX, an international law that would supercede American law.

Citizens for Health is currently asking people to take action to assure that that the right provisions go forward by urging their Senators to support certain other key provisions. If the bill passes today, there will be a need to coordinate the House and Senate versions. It’s therefore vital to make sure that certain items are changed.

Finally, CFH points out disturbing and unacceptable language in the House version of the bill, which “calls for the effective imposition of martial law through cordoning off potentially affected geographic areas in the case of a perceived food transport safety threat in order to halt the movement of food.”

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