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Pros and cons of the Food Safety Modernization Act

A worker picks peaches on a Cutchogue farm.

A worker picks peaches on a Cutchogue farm. (July 26, 2006) Photo Credit: Newsday photo / Thomas A. Ferrara

Twitter is all, well, atwitter this morning about the Senate vote on SB510, the Food Safety Modernization bill. Lawmakers are meeting at this moment to decide whether to expand FDA oversight of farms and food processing plants by imposing tougher safety standards on farmers and food manufacturers. Sounds great, right? I mean, who wants to contract salmonella?

Well, a lot of people -- among them some organics proponents, backyard gardeners and small-government advocates -- aren't exactly singing its praises. In fact, there's a massive campaign underway to defeat the bill. Here's a sampling of the latest tweets on the subject:

-- S510 is BAD! They control your food, they control you!

-- Food Safety Act is a gift to large Agriculture Corporations -- it will put small farmers out of business.

-- The response that I got from both my senators makes it clear they don't care about the public's opinion on this matter

-- Urgent push needed against S510 food vote. It's NOT about safety, but about more control.

-- WAKE-UP AMERICA! Please take time 2day 2 stop the food grab bill S510!

-- S510 is serious threat 2 food supply incl organics it gives FDA unchecked power

-- Bill in senate S510 makes it illegal to grow/share/trade/sell homegrown food!!

It's that last one that really raised my eyebrows. Is this hysteria or is there something to it? 

Allegedly (no, I haven't read the legislation personally), the bill, which is intended to reduce the risks of bacterial contaminations that have led to recent food recalls (eggs, peanuts, spinach), might have a hidden, darker side. 

Opponents' main concern is that the bill would mandate that all food  be produced under government-approved conditions on government-approved farms, etc., so the rationale is that it will become illegal for backyard gardeners to grow their own produce or share seeds, let alone bring some tomatoes into the office.

I don't know about that, but I do know a thing or two about unintended consequences, so I'm keeping an eye on this one.

So is it overdue regulation for our own good? Or scary government control that will eliminate organic produce and force us all to buy irradiated seeds? What do you think?


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