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FDA Rules Pose Threat to Organic Farmers

OFOrganic farmers may fall foul of regulations proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration, The Los Angeles Times reports.

In 2010, after a campaign lasting several years, food safety activists managed to convince Congress that the agency should be have the authority to monitor farm practices. In 2011, 33 people died after eating cantaloupe seemingly tainted by poor farming practices, sending the issue front and center and heaping pressure on the FDA to be more aggressive in its agricultural oversight, the paper reports.

Now organic farmers are learning that many of the techniques they have honed over decades of tending the land may be under threat of curtailed by proposed federal regulations. Such common techniques as the spreading of home-made fertilizer, tilling grass with grazing animals and irrigating with water from streams may all be under threat, the paper reports.

An anecdotal increase in the number of federal agents has also been reported. Jim Crawford, who runs New Morning Farm, told the paper about one visit from the Feds in which an agent detailed what future regulations he was currently in violation of and what fines he could be facing, the paper reports. He is not the only organic farmer to have had a recent visit from the FDA, the paper reports.

All of this is a threat to the organic farm business, according to Dave Runsten, policy director for Community Alliance with Family Farmers in Davis, Calif., the paper reports. Runsten says that consumer groups don’t understand farming. They think that they are facing-off with huge commercial growers, but that, in reality they are going to hurt the very same mom-and-pop operations that the same food activists go out of their way to purchase food from at the weekend farmers market, says Runstan, the paper reports.

In January, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kraft Foods and the other 300-plus food companies that are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association lobby the FDA and Congress to legislate a single federal standard covering oversight and labeling of new GMO foods.

The legislation would mandate consistent labeling of non-GMO and GMO foods, cancel out state laws not identical to the federal law, allow GMO foods to be labeled as “natural,” and require biotech crop developers to notify the FDA before introducing a new genetically engineered crop — it’s currently voluntary — among other provisions, according to the news agency.

The move aims to stop state-by-state efforts to mandate labeling of genetically modified foods.

Picture credit: American Farmland With Blue Cloudy Sky via Shutterstock.

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