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Farm bill could hamstring state food safety and animal welfare agencies

Posted by Stephen on June 22, 2007

Forty consumer, environmental, farmer and animal welfare groups today announced their opposition to a sweeping provision in the 2007 Farm Bill that wipes out critical state and local authority to protect food safety, the environment, and humane animal treatment.  The provision, Section 123 of Title I, was quietly inserted in the House bill several weeks ago by the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee.

Consumers Union, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Food Safety, the Union of Concerned Scientists and three dozen other organizations today called for deletion of Section 123, in a letter sent today to the House Agriculture Committee.  The full Committee will hold its mark up of the 2007 Farm Bill later this month.

“At a time when we have seen repeated food safety failures at FDA and USDA, we need more food safety protection, not less,” states Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports).  “This clause would tie the hands of states on meat, poultry and genetically engineered food,” she said.

Section 123 would prevent states and localities from passing any laws prohibiting commercial use of USDA-inspected products.  “This could prevent a local health inspector at a supermarket from condemning rodent-contaminated meat or poultry that has begun to go bad,” states Jean Halloran.

“Section 123 will subvert the principles of federalism and states’ rights,” states Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.  “If this appalling and outrageous measure is approved, agribusiness will accomplish what it could not achieve in state legislatures – the evisceration of state laws to protect horses from slaughter and a raft of other democratically approved animal welfare reforms.” 

Section 123 would also get in the way of state laws on biotechnology.  No state could prohibit use in commerce of a product that USDA has determined is “non-regulated.”  Both supporters and opponents of the measure agree that this refers to genetically engineered crops, which USDA “deregulates” after considering whether they might be a plant pest.  “California, Arkansas and Missouri have passed laws creating state committees that review whether genetically engineered rice should be grown in the state,” notes Joe Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety.    “These laws, which farmers support, would be preempted.”

“This poorly conceived provision should be dropped immediately,” states Mendelson.  “Just in the last several months we have seen problems with melamine in animal feed and ground beef contaminated with E. coli.   Section 123 takes us backwards by removing existing protections we have at the state and local level.   We need increased, not decreased food safety efforts,” he said.

Christopher J. Heyde is the Deputy Legislative Director for Society for Animal Protective Legislation

Views expressed by guest writers do not necessarily reflect those of Conservative Viewpoints.

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