NOTE: Includes info on how to take action.

US House May Prevent States from Protecting Food Supply House Subcommittee Approves Language Preempting State & Local Restriction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and Other Questionable Foods By Britt Bailey

The United States House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture has begun the process of writing the 2007 Farm Bill. Of grave concern is language added and approved by the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry that preempts state restrictions of foods or agricultural products deregulated by the USDA. The added language reads, “no State or locality shall make any law prohibiting the use in commerce of an article that the Secretary of Agriculture has inspected and passed; or determined to be of non-regulated status.”

The preemption language has been traced to Iowa Representative and Subcommittee Chair, Leonard Boswell. His intention is to prohibit state and local policies banning the sale of products approved by USDA and other regulatory agencies. The broad scope of the language would affect state and local prohibitions on the cultivation of genetically modified crops, bans on the sale of rBGH milk, and the outlawing of foie gras for starters.

At a time of pervasive food contamination and consumer displeasure with the social, ethical, and environmental aspects of food processes and production, the addition of a few lines tucked into an immense bill could weaken carefully adopted consumer protections.

If the preemption language is adopted into the final Farm Bill, some of the state laws that may be affected include:

*Genetically Modified Foods:

California and Arkansas are currently debating prohibitions on the growing GMO rice. The major rice growing states are concerned after the 2006 announcement that several un-approved varieties of engineered rice contaminated rice crops resulting in major financial losses for US farmers.

Four California counties and two cities have adopted prohibitions on the growing of genetically modified crops in order to protect their organic and conventional foods.

*rBGH Milk:

In 2006, Vermont’s Agricultural Secretary, Steve Kerr, urged dairy farmers to stop using rBGH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone, in dairy cows.

New York City is in the process of considering a ban on the sale of rBGH milk.

*Foie Gras:

On grounds of inhumane treatment, the City of Chicago banned the sale of foie gras in restaurants. California has banned the force-feeding of birds to produce the product, ending the practice by 2012.

In addition, the preemption language raises concerns that states would be barred from taking action when a food safety threats arise. For example, states could be barred from calling for recalls or prohibiting the sale of tainted meats, peanut butter, or other foods that have passed USDA inspection. Advocates favoring the preemption language include United Egg Producers, National Pork Producers, National Milk Producers Federation, and the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

The Farm Bill will be voted on by the House Committee on Agriculture before going to the House floor and then on to the Senate. To take action to oppose this disastrous preemption language, send a letter and/or contact:

The House Agricultural Committee,

Your House Representative,

Your Senator,

Stay updated about the 2007 Farm Bill as it moves through the House of Representatives: