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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Their Wealth Matters More Than Your Health

Tomorrow, the GOP-dominated House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 4167, the "National Uniformity for Food Act." This bill will require all state regulation of food to be identical to the federal government's regualtion of food products. In other words, states will be unable to enact any food safety laws beyond those mandated by the FDA. The bill has yet to receive a hearing, but the GOP wants to vote anyways.

This is a horrible idea for two reasons. First, this bill unneccessarily tramples on the principles of federalism. States have an interest in the safety of their food and should be allowed to develop standards specifically targeted towards the residents of particular states. Alaska, for example, has a law in place to require genetically engineered fish to be labeled as such. State officials presumably deemed such a regulation especially important for their state because of the high level of fish consumption in Alaska.

Second, and more important, this will clearly result in lower food safety standards and increased risk to consumers. 80% of all food safety regulations are currently enforced at the state level. Having two levels of enforcement necessarily causes more regulation to be enacted. More regulation means more standards which means more lives will be saved. The existence of 51 independent food safety agencies serves as checks on the FDA and on each other. If the FDA isn't regulating something due to ineptitude, conflicts of interest or an agressive pro-business mindset, one or more of the states will pick up the slack and regulate the problem.

Further, the states will start to look around and see what other states are regulating. California may like a safety regulation from Montana and adopt it as their own, even though California never would have come up with it on its own and the FDA doesn't have a similar regulation in place. The states serve as laboratories for new regulations that can result in new scientific revelations that the FDA alone would not have made.

Obviously, the Republicans in the House want to do this because they do anything and everything that wealthy corporations want. The health of the common man means nothing to these old white men who desire nothing more in life than money and power. They would rather see 5 children die than have a corporation pay a million dollars to comply with a state food safety regulation. To them, it's just another cost-benefit analysis, with the people paying the costs and the corporations reaping the benefits. The supporters of this bill include the mega-rich Grocery Manufacturers of America. The interest groups involved have donated millions, mostly to Republicans, in recent elections.

It is imperative that we do anything we can at this late stage. E-mail your Representative using this easy link or give them a phone call at (202) 224-3121. I'll post a follow up later this week and let readers know whether the GOP House really thinks that their wealth matters more than your health.

Comments on ""


Blogger Tran said ... (11:10 AM) : 

Assuming it passes, litigation over this bill is almost certain, if states rights or consumer activists step up.

There is an excellent opportunity for some pre-emption arguments on the part of the state. I'm not sure how the Bill is written, but unless it expressly preempts state law, then states can still enact their own legislation (above and beyond, but in compliance with) this law.

The argument there would, of course, be that the Bill was only intended to establish minimum standards, and that the states are free to do more if they please. Such arguments would leave it to the courts to determine the "intent" of the feds.

Also, as you mentioned, there is the possibility of arguing that this tramples notions of state sovereignty.

Unforetunately, with the new conservative Supreme Court, it is highly unlikely that the state arguments will succeed. Our current justices have a long history of "nuances", that manipulate the law to fit the GOP agenda. Only a fool would attempt to take this case to the Supreme Court with its current make-up.

It would appear that the only option that will be available is for consumers to act on their own. Consumers will have to boycott foods that do not meet stricter standards. I'm sure several liberal groups will attempt to organize such boycotts, but this type of thing has never been very successful in recent history.


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