“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
— Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson, who just days ago was surely spinning beneath the Monticello sod over Senate passage of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, must now be smiling as the bill has hit a serious snag.
You see, Jefferson had the notion that this was to be a nation of small farmers, and he also was a fan of the U.S. Constitution, intentionally designed to make it rather difficult to pass new laws.
The Food Safety and Modernization Act, a $1.4 billion dose of doublespeak if I’ve ever heard one, is hung up because its authors were apparently unschooled in congressional procedure, a separate problem entirely. And it’s now become a bizarre political football for those who want to extend the Bush-era tax cuts. There’s actually a good chance this bill will become compost by year’s end.
A big problem with the food safety bill is that there is not enough straight-up information about it. Most news stories offer only shallow overviews. Internet posts range from the hysterical paranoia that Homeland Security stormtroopers will be busting down doors of people who saved last year’s pumpkin seeds, to the wildly absurd notion that this bill will actually make food safer.
Backers of the measure range from seed cartel Monsanto and processed food giants Kraft and General Mills, to locavore advocate and author Michael Pollan. Go figure. Most local food organizations and small farm groups oppose it.
The bill itself seems to be written in some strange language, and contains enough vague wording and obvious loopholes that interpretation may require legal assistance. Even the amendment to exempt small farms making less than $500,000 annually contains apparent exemptions to the exemption.
In short, this thing was ill-conceived, unclear, and would likely tilt the planting fields in favor of industrial farms. Jefferson was right — congress has no business telling us what to eat.