Thursday, April 29, 2010

Will your access to organic foods survive?....

Today's Post: Thursday, 4-29-2010

Last Tuesday, 4-27-2010, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story titled,

“Organic farmers fear FDA overhaul.”

1. The United States congress is considering safety regulations that might put the organic foods producers out of business.

2. Meanwhile there has been no legislation of which I am aware to cause the factory farms that raise animals and poultry for our food to ONLY use antibiotics on animals that are actually sick.

What they commonly do now is to raise animals and poultry in conditions so stressful, crowded, and unsanitary, most of their stock would get sick if they didn’t administer antibiotics to all of them to prevent disease.

This does lower food costs. But, it also is the source of the dangerous bacteria the new safety regulations are designed to protect us from.

(Denmark, with what I suspect were cleaner farms, that had less crowding, and more humane conditions than factory farms in the United States, did pass such a program. It added just 5 cents a pound to meat prices. In the United States, it may cost more like 10 to 20 cents a pound in some cases. But it IS doable. And, it will help prevent the further creation of antibiotic resistant and more dangerous bacteria as it is NOW doing.)

This is a HUGE safety issue. If this practice continues, it may mean that your doctor will be unable to save you with antibiotics if you get a bacterial infection. Because of this surgeries that are virtually safe now if done properly may have 25 or 30 % death rates even if done under the most antiseptic and careful conditions.

That makes the new regulations doubly harmful.

They will fail to address the most important cause of the problem ANDfood prevent most people from accessing the safest and most nutritious food.

Organic foods not only have dramatically less pesticide and herbicide residue, they have provably MORE vitamins, MORE minerals, and MORE micronutrients that do useful things like prevent cancer and heart disease.

In addition, there is some evidence that well run organic farms do NOT have bee colony collapse and other ecological disasters that might wipe out huge parts of our food supply.

So, for reasons of public health from the effects of the food people eat and to have islands of safety to help prevent these kinds of ecological disasters, it is critical to have any regulations leave these organic farmers able to survive and survive without being bankrupted.

That said, it’s clear we DO need to track where our produce came from and have effective safety standards.

Since the large, factory style farms can afford to pay out of pocket for these efforts in part by the savings their harmful methods give them and the organic farmers basically invest that money in producing higher quality food, it seems to me that the solutions are clear.

First, to save the better, more desirable, part of our food supply, which for many reasons I think is critical to do, small and organic farms should have ALL costs of such new regulations paid for by the government. No excuses, no evasion permitted. If the regulations are worth having but uneconomic to comply with for our most valuable food producers, the government should fund the work to avoid either losing our most valuable food producers or leaving safety to chance.

Second, where the mandated methods prevent organic farming, the government – NOT just the organic farmers should work on finding ways to achieve the health goals without preventing the food that organic farming is now producing.

Such things as poisoning animals to keep them out of fields is likely unnecessary for example. The government should work with the organic farmers to find a less ecologically harmful alternative that does the job AND fund the work.

Third, and perhaps of most importance, the government should STOP giving the factory farms a license to create super bacteria immune to antibiotics that they are now doing and which then go into the food millions of people eat and cook.

I’ll be sending this to both our Senators saying that a food safety bill that lacks these protections is a bill that they should not only vote against but speak against and lobby against most vigorously in congress.

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