One of the ultimate signs of cinematic paranoia for me has always been Donald Sutherland nervously looking out the blinds in the 1978 remake of the sci-fi classic, Invasion of The Body Snatchers. This scene comes after he’s been made hip to the scheme of replacing humans with aliens via pods that replicate an approximation of ourselves while we sleep. Of course, with The Cold War still on in the late 70’s, the filmmaker was able to play upon the dangers of falling asleep amidst the spread of an unseen enemy (the original is the best propaganda film you can ever see, as evinced by the YOU’RE NEXT!YOU’RE NEXT! YOU’RE NEXT! finale that has the main character jarringly yelling at the audience).
While not quite replacement via pod people, The FDA is offering up a future just as insidious for our food supply via the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act. Of course, most people haven’t heard of this proposal, which is a huge part of the problem. That certainly plays to the favor of those who would benefit from its passage: the giant companies who control most of our food supply.
That’s because these companies would wish nothing more than to choke off the continued growth of a progressive food movement that has served up local and/or organic produce while robbing money from their profit margins.
Paranoia you say? Not when these companies have huge might via their lobbyist groups and The FDA and USDA have revolving doors for executives from Big Agricultural companies such as Monsanto (i.e. much has been written about the appointment of former Monsanto lobbyist Michael Taylor to The FDA, as well as his involvement with The USDA).
Why is The Food Safety Modernization Act so bad?
It will severely handcuff small, independent farmers via an absurd and highly misguided take on the application of manure (yes, shit is the sticky wicket here). If this proposal takes effect, many small, independent farmers could be forced to grow less produce, which would drive up organic food prices (as well as food prices for any produce coming from a small, local farmer, organic or otherwise), which, along with a decreased yield, would hurt profits and probably drive most small farmers out of business.
Sure, the proposed act sounds good (who can’t get behind food safety, especially modernized food safety?), and we all want manure to be properly applied to fields (the act,as reported on Forbes.com, calls for an update to an existing law that would require manure rich compost to sit on a field for 45 before the harvesting of produce). This may sound all well and good for a public used to health scares followed by massive e.coli and salmonella induced recalls.
But, there are two things to take note of here. First, when produce is contaminated with pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria, it is usually from run-off from factory farms and not from the safe and very traditional application of manure on small farms via the same method applied by traditional farming for hundreds of years. To dive deeper on this point, one has to take note of the massive shit lakes (take the kids) that exist on many a factory farm. With so many animals on most large scale farms, all the excrement piles up, with the trapping lagoons often overflowing during heavy rains to contaminate nearby streams and yes, fields full of produce we buy and eat. So, it is not your small farmer who is contaminating the food supply. In fact, he’s most likely running a model, sustainable farm that not only produces a safer, better product, but he’s also not damaging his local environment in a way on par with the country’s many massive farms.
Secondly, more and more studies show that an array of illnesses can be tied to the fact that we have distanced ourselves from the soil. Specifically, the rise in autoimmune disorders leading to everything from asthma, obesity, and even cardiac disease, can be tied to the lack of exposure to beneficial microorganisms that can help regulate and augment the body’s immune system. As Michael Pollan recently pointed out in NYT Magazine, it’s time to rethink the value of germs to the internal ecosystem, while rethinking the notion of self. It’s also time to do away with the factory farming model which, via its reliance of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, depletes the soil of the healthful microorganisms (germs) that can be found in abundance on small farms that safely apply compost enriched with manure.
With that said, absurdity seems all too nice a term for The FDA’s recent proposal, set to take effect November 30th.
The good news is that you can make your voice heard up until tomorrow, November 15th, via The FDA’s official comment period. [UPDATE: THE COMMENT PERIOD HAS BEEN EXTENDED UNTIL NOVEMBER 22nd.]
And you can stay vocal even after this period if this asinine act, one that speaks so heavily of collusion and outright corruption, goes into effect. As with the Farm Bill that gives billions to billion dollar companies while doing nothing to help small farmers, we need to tell our government to support the people we meet at the farmers market, the people who are farming in a way that doesn’t damage the environment or make us sick. But most of all, we need to say that we don’t want the little guy to disappear.