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OCA's Position on the New House Food Safety Bill - HR 2749

By Alexis Baden-Mayer

Article from The Organic Consumers Association

The Organic Consumers Association is fairly satisfied now that Congress has heard our message and that HR 2749 is intended to protect organic production methods from conflict with new food safety regulations.


It says, in issuing the regulation, the Secretary "shall take into consideration, consistent with ensuring enforceable public health protection, the impact on small-scale and diversified farms, and on wildlife habitat, conservation practices, watershed-protection efforts, and organic production methods." (Sec 419A(b)(7))

However, we share the concerns of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance:

And, we support the amendments suggested by the Maine Organic Farmers And Gardeners Association:

Our position is influenced by the work of the Wild Farm Alliance, especially their position paper, Food Safety Requires a Healthy Environment: Policy Recommendations for E. coli O157:

Of course, focusing on fresh vegetables rather than factory farmed meat, which this bill doesn't reach, is treating a symptom not the disease. Vegetable farming doesn't produce E. coli or salmonella, these diseases come from animal farming and get into vegetable farms through the factory farms' pollution of our water and soil. The number one thing we could do to increase food safety is to stop the factory farming of animals:

1. Animals should never be fed blood, manure or slaughterhouse waste.

2. Cows need to eat grass.

3. Animals need to be spread out on enough land to absorb their waste.

The dangers to food safety of factory farms, also known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations, is well documented by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Resources Defense Council and Food & Water Watch.

Another way vegetables can become contaminated is through the use of untreated animal manure or biosolids (the fertilizer industry's name for sewage sludge/human waste). Organic regulations ban sewage sludge and have rules for the use of manure that prevent contamination. These should be adopted by conventional producers.

Certified organic farmers must maintain a farm plan detailing the methods used to build soil fertility, including the application of manure, as mandated by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and the National Organic Program (NOP) rule of December 2000. According to the latter, raw animal manure must be composted if it is to be applied to land used for a crop intended for human consumption, unless it is applied to the land at least 120 days prior to harvest if the edible part crops come in contact with soil, and at least 90 days prior to harvest of edible parts that do not come into contact with soil. OFPA further recommends a longer period if soil or other conditions warrant.  No other agricultural regulation in the United States imposes such strict control on the use of manure. Certifiers and scientists recommend the use of well-composted manure to reduce the incidence of E. coli.


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