Given the deluge of deceptive propaganda supporting passage of S 510, the Food ‘Safety’ Modernization Act, we feel it necessary to reproduce articles warning about the dangers of such legislation. The following 2009 article discusses the implications of a speech given by FDA Commissioner Lester M. Crawford in 2004 regarding seeds. ~Ed.
Food Safety Regulations: Intended quicksand for sustainable agriculture
By Linn Cohen-Cole
January 8, 2009
Hidden inside regulations that are not voted on by any legislators representing the public are massive bars to all involvement in farming by small farmers. The monopolistic, unconstitutional, destructive reality of those regulations appear obvious when time is taken to look carefully.
Monsanto runs the American Seed Trade Association which has influenced the FDA to implement regulations governing seeds that MASSIVELY control importation and limit who can provide them nationally.
The following is excerpted from a speech before the American Seed Trade Association and the American Organization of Seed Certifying Agencies at their Joint Annual Convention. Remarks are by Lester M. Crawford, the Acting Commissioner of the FDA. June 29, 2004:
“Good morning, thank you Jim (Jim Tobin, Monsanto, Vice-Chair of ASTA) for your kind introduction. I’m pleased to meet with you this morning, and to participate in this historic joint meeting of ASTA and the Association of Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA).
“… Certainly seeds are the foundation for both human and animal life on earth, providing food, fiber for clothing, and many industrial products that we all use every day.
“As your meeting schedule for the remainder of the day illustrates, both organizations play an essential role in certification and conservation of seeds of all types ranging from lawn grasses, trees, and shrubs to all types of food crops nationally and globally.
What seeds are affected?
“FDA considers a seed to be a food if it will be used for human or animal food … For example, seed that is imported for use in animal feeds would require prior notice, as would seed to be used for human food such as sesame seeds or poppy seeds to be used in baking, or oilseeds for processing into edible oils or seed to be used in the production of edible sprouts. If the seed is to be used only for cultivation, prior notice of importation is not required.”
A partial list then would include flax, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, wheat, alfalfa, mung bean, broccoli, amaranth, corn, soy, canola, sunflower, etc. Corporations, in conjunction with the FDA (and international agencies they also have control over) are now using “food safety” and “bioterrorism” to establish global regulations that remove normal human control over seeds.
“These new rules represent innovative solutions to 21st century problems. They offer us new information on food production and distribution for the first time, including a complete inventory of food facilities both foreign and domestic, comprehensive information on all imported foods, and information on precisely who is handling the food throughout the entire chain of custody on either side of the border. These new rules will allow FDA to better identify potentially dangerous foods, as well as respond more quickly to new threats and to handle food borne illness outbreaks more efficiently.”
One might notice that the seeds listed are not associated with any food borne illness but have – astoundingly – just been entirely redefined as sources of illness, and then – going one immense step even further – as potential deadly agents of terrorism.
It would seem important, then, in this colossal redefinition of what has always been safe as now threatening, and in the application of police and military force to its potential destruction, and in the ramifications to the lives of those wholly dependent on these yesterday-normal-today-dangerous seeds, to ask who is making these gigantic alternations and their standing is an agency sincerely concerned with public health.
1. Under Bush and Clinton, Monsanto employees were appointed to head and run the FDA, where they approved their own product – rBGH – the first genetically engineered product ever approved. The FDA approved it over strong medical objections that linked it to increased risk of cancer, and FDA scientists who reported that Monsanto was altering the data, were fired. Click here.
2. Vioxx was left on the market for years despite FDA awareness of its dangers. Click here.
3. The FDA allows on the market NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, advil, ibuprofen, despite thousands of deaths a year (click here) and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations (click here). From the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, June 1999 (as quoted by Health Sentinel):
“It has been estimated conservatively that 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur among patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis every year in the United States. This figure is similar to the number of deaths from the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS] and considerably greater than the number of deaths from multiple myeloma, asthma, cervical cancer, or Hodgkin’s disease. If deaths from gastrointestinal toxic effects from NSAIDs were tabulated separately in the National Vital Statistics reports, these effects would constitute the 15th most common cause of death in the United States. Yet these toxic effects remain mainly a ‘silent epidemic,’ with many physicians and most patients unaware of the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore the mortality statistics do not include deaths ascribed to the use of over-the-counter NSAIDS.”
The FDA, with close ties to those pharmaceutical corporations, allows them to advertise NSAIDs freely on TV, including offering free OTC drugs and strongly encouraging the public to share them with friends.
But when US cherry growers had a peer-reviewed study done to see what was good about cherries and the study showed that they are potentially ten times stronger than NSAIDs for controlling pain, the FDA threatened legal action and to seize property if any cherry grower even put a link on their website to the study. A search turned up no deaths or hospitalizations from cherries in this country.
4. The FDA’s position on melamine, which killed at least six babies in China and sickened over 300,000, was first to deny the use of malmine:
“All makers of infant formula that can be legally marketed in the United States have confirmed that they do not use milk products from China in the manufacture of their products.”
Then it reversed itself:
“On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the FDA admitted that one brand of formula contained very small amounts of melamine. Another brand contained similarly tiny amounts of cyanuric acid, a related chemical. And a third maker of infant formula told the AP that its own tests detected small amounts of melamine in its product.
“As recently as last October, the FDA said it did not know of any safe level of melamine in baby formula. Last Friday, the agency said that melamine and cyanuric acid are safe in baby formula at levels up to 1 part per million….
“Melamine, also known as cyanuramide, is a synthetic chemical product that forms hard resins when combined with formaldehyde. It is used in a wide range of products such as cooking utensils, plates, industrial coatings, paper and paperboard, and flame retardant … and … pesticides.
“These three manufacturers — Mead Johnson, Nestle, and Abbott — make more than 90% of the baby formula sold in the U.S.
“‘One part per million is a very low level of melamine—if no other chemical is included,’ Lin [Mengshi Lin, PhD, assistant professor of food science at the University of Missouri, Columbia] tells WebMD. “But if you have 1 part per million of melamine and 1 part per million of cyanuric acid, that is a big problem. The two chemicals react to form crystals, and that can be a big risk, especially for infants.’” (Click here.)
5. FDA did not admit for decades until forced by a recent lawsuit, that mercury in dental amalgams is toxic.
Federal Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle told the agency, “This is your classic failure to act.” Charles Brown, a lawyer for Consumers for Dental Choice, one of the plaintiffs said “Gone, gone, gone are all of FDA’s claims that no science exists that amalgam is unsafe.” Still, the FDA’s new warning stops short of admitting that dental amalgams are dangerous for the general population. (Click here.)
This is far from an inclusive list, but even so, it is more than enough to lay to rest any belief that the FDA consistently acts in the public’s best interest.
One ceases to see this as an accidental regulatory failure when the FDA acts beyond the scope of its legal authority by threatening those providing information (free speech) that cherries are immeasurably safer than NSAIDs. It throws into serious question their commercial partisanship versus any actual commitment to “food safety” or “drug safety,” since such illegal use of government power on behalf of corporations is dangerously against the public health. But such actions are so disturbing they go beyond raising disturbing questions about agency incompetence and failure or even corporate corruption, to raise even more profound issues of criminal conspiracy and negligent manslaughter.
In doing so, they throw into disturbing relief what the FDA is doing – with Monsanto by its side – in announcing mammoth regulations that will allow multinational corporations such as Monsanto even greater national and global control over seeds in the now clearly spurious name of “food safety.”
The USDA has its own close corporate connections to agribusiness and the USDA is committing on-going raids against farmers, agribusiness’ only competition. In these, “food safety” is being used to destroy sustainable agriculture while distracting from the actual problems (click here) and leaving untouched the industrially-sized industrially-caused sources of disease in the corporate feedlots, animal factories and slaughterhouses.
This mirrors exactly how the pharmaceutical corporations and the FDA have promoted and/or given a pass to melamine in infant formula, NSAIDs, dental mercury amalgams, Vioxx, Paxil, HRT, etc. while attacking cherry growers and the entire natural substance industry which are the pharmaceutical industry’s competition. The attacks on healthy food and safe substances by government agencies in collusion with corporations and those agencies bypassing filthy and/or dangerous industries (click here), combine to expose the use of “food safety” and “drug safety” regulations to destroy competition from all natural sources. Click here.
The Patriot Act has allowed the government to remove constitutional rights using terrorism as the justification. Homeland Security now is working with the FDA on food. So, the police state use of “food safety” in raids on healthy local farming has now become ramped up to a exceedingly strengthened and more vast new scare – “international bio-terrorism,” which then providing the FDA (qua Monsanto) a full blown military and global control over seeds, which serves Monsanto’s every interest.
In his 2004 speech, FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford stated:
“FDA is also extensively involved and committed to the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), a national initiative designed to integrate America’s laboratory infrastructure to better detect and respond to bioterror agent threats to the food supply at local, state, and federal levels. The key goals of FERN are:
* Prevention (federal and state surveillance sampling programs to monitor the food supply)
* Preparedness (strengthen laboratory capacity and capabilities)
* Response (surge capacity to handle terrorist attacks or a national emergency involving the food supply), and
* Recovery (support recalls, seizures, and disposal of contaminated food or feed to restore confidence in the food supply).”
One must remember that this is the same agency which couldn’t find the source of the problems with tomatoes this past summer, shifted to blaming jalapenos, and even attempted in Pennsylvania to blame raw milk. Did the FDA actually find the source but there were corporations to protect? (Monsanto owns tomatoes. Click here.)
Many people were made ill, but notice that the FDA is not banning tomatoes as it has done with raw milk (with no comparable outbreaks and with customers pleased with the milk) or even demanding testing of every bushel.
There are now plans to build a bioterrorism lab which will house the most dangerous disease samples. Where are they building this lab to protect our country from bioterrorism and any escape of food-borne diseases into our food supply? Kansas, right in Tornado Alley. (Click here for 2010 article.)
The FDA regulations that Monsanto is pleased with (and one imagines they contributed to directly) are not only international import ones, or warrantless seize and destroy ones under Homeland security, but also FDA regulations concerning general food contamination.
Keeping in mind that people have been sickened by tomatoes but no regulations were applied for either routine testing or any banned (and NO food should be), and there have been NO such issues with seeds, look now at these FDA regulations for seeds:
“Key sources of contamination in seed production include:
* Agricultural water sources
* Use of manure as fertilizer
* Harvesting, transportation, and seed-cleaning equipment
* Seed storage facilities.”
This short and innocuous looking list is a picture of the deconstruction of organic farming and all sustainable agriculture in this country. Remember that this list was presented at a speech to ASTA, the American Seed Trade Association, which Monsanto runs. Note that manure fertilizer – the gold of organic farming, the non-petroleum-based key to rich soil – is listed here as a source of contamination. Then note the absence on the list of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, both capable of killing. Click here.
If regulations over “harvesting, transport equipment and seed cleaning equipment” are implemented so as to require FDA-approved industrial equipment – as now is being with seed cleaning equipment – the costs are beyond their capacity, so such corporate-driven regulations effectively and silently eliminate small farmers from “participating” in farming.
If agricultural water and manure are defined as sources of contamination, any CSA capable of sustaining the cost of the equipment could be charged at a whim for violating “food safety” regulations and be raided and shut down as co-ops (click here) as is happening to small farmers now.
Getting seed storage cited as a source of food contamination is a redundant or back up method on Monsanto’s part for keeping organic (normal) seeds out of the hands of farmers and the public, since it has already pushed laws across the country that make seed collecting, saving, and selling so complex, costly and ridden with potential for error that seed companies are disappearing. Such laws are already removing seeds from human access. Click here for Illinois law.
Prior to genetic engineering and patenting of seeds, the collecting of seeds was a simple thing, without such laws. As you look through each section of this law, ask a few questions:
* What are the absolute surveillance of and intense control over all varieties of seed about?
* Are the laws being written so that still-existing normal varieties will be known, which can then be bought up or wiped out by Monsanto and others?
* Are the laws setting farmers up to fail and then be sued by government or biotech companies?
* Can this Illinois law, for example, be accomplished by any ordinary person, outside of a corporate bureaucracy – of government or industry?
At a time of food insecurity and the loss of biodiversity and the public’s demand for organic, normal food, should national and state governments be creating any laws at all which IN ANY WAY limit saving of seeds by farmers and all citizens?
Perhaps in looking more carefully at the regulations themselves and at the agencies imposing them and at the corporations at the right hand of those agencies, the regulations no longer look like what they claim to be – protection of the public health. In their size and impact on farming, they appear to be hidden weapons in a battle of big against little, or more accurately of MASSIVE, CORPORATE and GLOBAL versus miniscule, human and local. In each regulation, the changes imposed are:
1. Beyond the capacity of small farmers and human beings to be in the game at all, or
2. To keep up, or
3. To defend themselves from lawsuits and raids.
Notice the immense scope of the regulations, the required costs to be included, the corporate legal level of complexity, the reliance on labs of dubious independence as the means to justify warrantless raids and destruction, and the sheer power involved.
Grape seed extract has been shown to be enormously effective against leukemia. Click here. Prostrate cancer can be cured by flax seeds. But under these food “safety” laws, farmers will not be able to clean the seeds or sell them. Only agribusiness will. Storing it or any seeds at your home could potentially make you liable to be raided, as the co-op in Ohio was.
Untouched in all this, on the animal side of farming, is a monstrously over-sized corporate surveillance system with penalties large enough to finish off any farmer at a single infraction (click here), one that farmers have been desperately saying will put them out of farming altogether – NAIS. The National Animal Identification System was promoted as voluntary but people have been coerced as well as having been signed on without their knowledge. Now, suddenly, it is mandatory. Through whatever means used to force farmers onto animal tracking, farmers fear this is an underhanded but inescapable means of having them sign away their farmland – our American farmland – as collateral on the bailout. Click here.
[NOTE: The USDA has dropped NAIS, at least for now, but animal tracing appears in food “safety” legislation. ~Ed.]
It provides a mechanism to do with animals what Monsanto did with seeds – find the major sources, eliminate them, reduce the genetic diversity available and substitute genetically engineered versions, so farmers lose natural seeds and animals. Monsanto and other biotech companies then “own” the genetically modified versions of plants and animals. In this way, farmers end up as tenant farmers on their own land, never able to collect seeds and benefit from the bounty of nature. Monsanto is making the ultimate industrial move by treating seeds as factories – mere means of production, where farmers become workers.
While getting rid of normal animals and replacing them with genetically engineered patented ones may seem far-fetched, it is already happening in Asia. The industrial side of farming – the giant poultry factories – is implicated in causing Bird Flu through its terrible practices around disposing of contaminated waste. Wild birds got sick. Small farmers were blamed, their small stocks eliminated, and GE-poultry is substituted. (Click here for a 2010 discussion.)
The poultry industry, in using the crisis to push out small farmers (click here) and substituting patented poultry, retains ownership of all future “intellectual property” – and babies born to that poultry. The poultry farmers, like the seed farmers, own nothing and are reduced to renting the birds and working for the transnational poultry companies.
One need only recognize that the data from NAIS is fed into a corporate data bank to which corporations have 24-7 access to detailed records on every small farmer in the country with even a single chicken, to understand how such a spying and record keeping system could assist in the elimination of diverse animal stock here through “surge capacity” warrantless searches, seizures and destruction, using food scares and bioterrorism scares as a convenient means of eliminating competition by natural foods.
So, whether it is seed laws and food contamination regulations for seeds and elimination of all seed equipment and everything necessary for organic agriculture that pleases Monsanto, or assaults on raw milk dairy farmers using “food safety” as the justification while industrial milk with rBGH linked to three cancers is approved, or a mega-spy system over every farm animal in the country, controlled by the very agribusinesses which caused Mad Cow through their disgusting practices, lowering of contamination standards, and blocking of inspections, all sectors of farming – crops, dairy and animals – are covered.
The question arises – what provides real “food safety”? Is it access to local farmers we know personally who are growing food we have decided we want and our choosing to take the risk, or is it “protection” for all risk by agencies which are close to the filthy corporations actively blocking inspections and lowering contamination standards, and with their help are writing oversize regulations which, right now, are already silently dismantling all aspects of small, local farming itself?
Also see Seeds – How to criminalize them.