Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Food Source Tracking: Just Another Nagging Agency, or Sinister Anti-Organic Plot?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2009 at 1:12 PM

click to enlarge lettuce-garden.jpg

There's a new bill in Congress that could mean two different things. Either it's a good way to track foods so that when an outbreak occurs, the source can be pinpointed. Or it's guaranteed to put organic farmers and small artisan manufacturers out of business. Here's the text, which I found identically on two websites, so who knows the source, maybe Washingtonwatch.com:

On February 12, 2009, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate to provide for the establishment of a traceability system for food. The "Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act" would amend the FDC Act, Federal Meat Inspection Act, Poultry Products Inspections Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act to require a food tracking system for all food shipped in interstate commerce.

The system would comprise a record-keeping and audit system, a secure online database, or registered identification that would permit retrieval of the history, use and location of the foods. If the bill is passed, then $40 million would be appropriated for the task of creating the system for fiscal years 2010 through 2012. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

No less an authority than Marion Nestle thinks it's not necessarily a good idea, while other equally sane people think it will, at the very least, have unintended consequences.

One worry is that it could put large-scale organic farmers out of business just as organic farming has become large-enough scale to be profitable. Another is that the tracking would make it difficult and complex to hold farmers' markets. (This turns out not to be true.)

La Vida Locavore has a clear-eyed and detailed comparison of all the proposed legislation and a lively discussion here. If you're harder-core, read the full text of the House bill and the full text of the Senate bill.

And if you need entertainment value, go read Ron Paul's thoughts, which are that it's "the criminalization of organic" act. His followers already have their pitchforks and muskets at the ready, and frankly scare me more than pesticides.

Hat tip: Always Hungry

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