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I got an invitation to join a Facebook group called Against the Organic Farming Ban. I had a look, and the description seemed to have been cut and pasted from a forwarded email:
> > Please tell everyone who wants organic foods.....
>
> US House and Senate are about (in a week and a half) to
> vote on bill that will OUTLAW ORGANIC FARMING (bill HR 875).
> There is an enormous rush to get this into law within the
> next 2 weeks before people realize what is happening.
>
> Main backer and lobbyist is Monsanto – chemical and
> genetic engineering giant corporation (and Cargill, ADM, and
> about 35 other related agri-giants). This bill will require
> organic farms to use specific
> fertilizers and poisonous insect sprays dictated by the
> newly formed agency to "make sure there is no danger to
> the public food supply". This will include backyard
> gardens that grow food only for a family and not for sales.
>
> If this passes then NO more heirloom clean seeds but only
> Monsanto genetically altered seeds that are now showing up
> with unexpected diseases in humans.
>
> There is a video on the subject.
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epXNJNjYBvw&feature=related
>
> And another one:
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeWVkTU1s1E
>
> The name on this outrageous food plan is:
> Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 (bill HR 875).
> THIS IS REAL, FOLKS! PASS THIS ALONG TO ALL CONCERNED ON
> YOUR MAILING LISTS & CALL YOUR SENATE REPRESENTETIVES
> TODAY!
> Get on that phone and burn up the wires. Get anyone else
> you can to do the same thing. The House and Senate WILL pass
> this if they are not massively threatened with loss of their
> position.... They only fear your voice and your vote.
> The best thing to do is go to www.house.gov/writerep
> all you have to do is put in your zip and it will give you
> your congressperson and how to get in touch with them. When
> you call their office someone will answer the phone, just
> tell them (politely) that you are calling to express your
> views on HR 875.
> Tell them your views, they'll take your name and
> address and pass your comments along to the congressperson.
>
> The following link is a list of the U.S. senators and their
> contact info:
> http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm (read less)

> > Please tell everyone who wants organic foods.....
>
> US House and Senate are about (in a week and a half) to
> vote on bill that will OUTLAW ORGANIC FARMING (bill HR 875).
> There is an enormous rush to get this into law within the
> next 2 weeks before people realize what is happening.
>
> Main backer and lobbyist is Monsanto – chemical and
> genetic engineering giant corporation (and Cargill, ADM, and
> about 35 other related agri-giants). This bill will require
> organic farms to use... (read more)


This Facebook group has 67,949 members.

I suspected a hoax. I Googled "bill HR 875" and found seeming corroboration like an OpEdNews article which contains the following:
The bill is monstrous on level after level - the power it would give to Monsanto, the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hours GPS tracking of their animals, the easements on their property to allow for warrantless government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition by the filthy, greedy industrial side of anti-farming international "industrial" standards to independent farms - the only part of our food system that still works, the planned elimination of farmers through all these means.


Then I Googled "bill HR 875 hoax" and found an article dated 17 March 2009 titled Food Bill Hoax (HR 875) Spreads Across Campus: You May Be Arrested Soon for Growing A Tomato. I expected to learn that there is no H.R. 875, but that's not what I found. What the article does present is a defense of the bill from the office of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, 3rd congressional district of Connecticut. Here's a sample:
Myths and Facts - H.R. 875
The Food Safety Modernization Act

* * * MYTH * * * H.R. 875 "makes it illegal to grow your own garden" and would result in the "criminalization of the backyard gardener."

- - FACT - - There is no language in the bill that would regulate, penalize, or shut down backyard gardens. The focus of this bill is to ensure the safety of foods sold in supermarkets.

* * * MYTH * * * H.R. 875 would mean a "goodbye to farmers markets" because it would regulate and penalize "each farmer who wishes to sell locally."

- - FACT - - There is no language in the bill that would result in farmers markets being regulated, penalized by any fines, or shut down. Farmers markets would be able to continue to flourish under the bill. In fact, the bill would insist that imported foods meet strict safety standards to ensure that unsafe imported foods are not competing with locally-grown foods.

* * * MYTH * * * H.R. 875 would result in the "death of organic farming."

- - FACT - - There is no language in the bill that would stop or interfere with organic farming. The National Organic Program (NOP) is under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).The Food Safety Modernization Act only addresses food safety issues under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Like most of the elected officials who would vote for or against H.R. 875, I have not, and in all likelihood never will, read the bill. It has taken me MUCH longer to craft this blog post than it took to find a countervailing presentation on the intent and probable outcome of this House Resolution. I even found other bloggers posting "Is this stuff for real" queries. The discussion thread for one such post lead me to an entry on FactCheck.org which summarized the controversy as follows:
Illegal Backyard Garden?

March 27, 2009

Q: Would a new bill in Congress make my backyard organic garden illegal?

A: A House bill proposes to split the Food & Drug Administration, creating a separate entity to oversee food safety. It's aimed at food sold in supermarkets and doesn't say anything about organic gardening, pesticides, farmers' markets or that tomato plant in your backyard.


By temperament, I'm as inclined to attribute evil intentions to the conspiratorial machinations of government and corporate insiders as the next guy, but I've been burned one too many times by jumping on similar bandwagons, and claims that some momentous legislation will be passed or defeated "next week" sets off alarm bells, but not the ones that the propagators of this meme intended to trigger. This Interwebz doohickie is a nifty thing, and like most electronic gizmos, it has functions that most users never utilize or even know about, e.g. fact checking.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
venusflytrap
Dec. 4th, 2009 06:44 pm (UTC)
i actually went a little apeshit when i skimmed it. phew!
ankh_f_n_khonsu
Dec. 4th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
Nice digging! Cheers for the post! Your Internet still intermittent? How did the podcast voting go? Never see your comments except here.
aigantighe
Dec. 8th, 2009 07:25 am (UTC)
So, I don't really grok the intricacies of the US system, but shouldn't you be able to just go look at the text of HR 875 and decide for yourself?

Or is that not open here?
carolb_uk
Dec. 8th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
Text of HR 875
Here it is: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h875/text

If you've got a week or two free, you might be able to make sense of it. :-) You can view comments about the bill on the site, which would use up another week! Honestly, flipping through it and the comments, I really cannot tell who would be affected by it.





( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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