Government Responsibility for Food Safety & Security
Over the past century, the advent of modern farming techniques, the corporatization of agriculture, the use of petrochemical-based fertilizers, and the subsidizing and encouragement of Big Ag have collectively created a poisonous brew that is now affecting our health and well-being in critical ways.
The function of protecting America’s food supply was given in 1930 to an agency called The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most of us have grown up believing the FDA to be a watchdog on the look-out for threats to our health and well-being.
In fact, the deregulatory trend that began in the 1980s as a financial boon to corporations has resulted in what is now a drastically underfunded and under-resourced FDA. More significantly, it has been turned into a toothless tiger with drastically diminished authority to actually put a stop to the kinds of abuses our government should be protecting us from.
A way-too-cozy relationship between the US government and its corporate benefactors has become the order of the day. In what is commonly called a “revolving door” practice, former corporate leaders now routinely move into positions of governmental authority.
Sources of corruption in our food include the following:
- Destructive and outdated farming practices such as excessive pesticides/herbicides/fertilizers, big monoculture systems, and till-based farming.
- Commodity Crop Programs that do not support America’s diversity
- Air and water pollution, and the lack of recognition from federal agencies.
- Big-Ag animal processing, with crowding of animals – chickens, cows, pigs – and feeding them antibiotics and growth hormones
- Weak monitoring of and enforcement relating to food borne pathogens
- Outdated food pyramid guidelines.
The Corruption of Our Food System
Many of our health problems, including obesity, can be traced to the corruption of our food system. We experience a lack of vitality in our food and thus, in our bodies, from processed foods containing poor-quality calories, few if any nutrients, and the residue of poisons (like RoundUp) in Big Ag.
We heavily subsidize unhealthy mass-produced foods like corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, when we need to be supporting the production of healthy whole foods, making them more affordable and accessible. We must also update our nation’s outdated nutrition guidelines and our food pyramid, which have not caught up to the science of what constitutes healthy food.
While its manufacturers claim that GMOs increase yield and, thus, help feed the starving of the world, scientists question whether that assertion is true. In fact, GMOs contaminate our gene pool, can be poisonous to birds and other living things, and have led to the production of increasingly dangerous herbicides such as Roundup.
Roundup is linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects and cancer. It has been shown to cause birth defects in amphibians, embryonic deaths and endocrine disruption, and organ damage in animals even in very low doses.
Due to these and other concerns, over 39 (as of 2016) countries have banned the production of genetically modified foods. Yet the United States, one of only 26 countries that grow GMO crops, has over 180 million acres of GMO crops under cultivation. More than 70% of all U.S. cropland is already planted with GMO crops, and 70% – 80% of all foods sold in the US now contain GMOs – especially processed and non-organic foods.
We should at least know when we are eating food made from GMOs. While the Big 6 pesticide makers – particularly Monsanto and Dupont – spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat GMO labeling propositions in both California and Washington State, as president I would seek to limit their power. I would work to label all GMOs, and to strengthen consumer protection by the FDA and USDA.
A Williamson administration will support farmers and ranchers far more than we currently do. Including support for our farmers of historically underrepresented communities. Our food system has been especially hard hit by the current administration’s trade policies, as well as by the impacts of climate change. My presidency will support regenerative, sustainable agricultural practices that not only have highly profitable yields, but can also help turn the tide on climate change.
Once again, until we have limited the influence of moneyed interests on the functioning of our government, we will always be fighting for the interests of the American people against encroachment by huge multinational corporate interests such as Big Ag, chemical companies and so forth. We are no longer a functioning democracy when money gets to talk more than we do.
Republicans in Washington are also currently trying to rid the United States of food stamp programs. For many of our children, our disabled, our elderly, and even members of our military, food stamps make a daily difference in their lives. The idea of stealing from the poor in order to make it easier for the rich is not, in my mind, the way to cut America’s deficit. A moral deficit is as serious as a financial one.
Furthermore, the mistreatment of animals and our environment is damaging to the American soul. As custodians of this planet, we are intended to care for the animals that share the land with us. Big Ag needs to be a better steward, and we need to find a way to better respect animals, and stop what in some cases is inhumane treatment—all the while, supporting our farmers and ranchers, financially and otherwise, to help make it so. Each of us must examine, carefully and soulfully, how our dietary choices not only affect our bodies and our planet, but how they literally affect the animal themselves.
FOOD SAFETY AND SECURITY DURING A WILLIAMSON PRESIDENCY
The Williamson administration will:
- Increase farming access for the American people by reducing the red-tape within our food system. For instance expanding subsidized commodities to support non-traditional, expanding regional-based policies such as expanding opportunity zones, or definition of rural/urban zip codes (with community input), reducing zipcode based restrictions to expand funding capacity and capability within rural and urban farming programs from FSA and the USDA Rural Development.
- Identify the gaps in our food system with stronger census reporting, removing discriminatory and out-dated practices of reporting, modernize collection methods, protect identities, increase frequency specific for both urban and rural regions with a focus on community-based surveying, and follow standard scientific approaches for making determinations.
- As we rebuild the moral fabric of our nation, bridge the food gap amidst historic need for food assistance programs. With increased inflation, reduced CDL drivers, and long delays in our supply chain, feed the people with a reignited and equitable Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
- Similarly, expand overall funding in Temporary Food Assistance Programs and remove the regulatory barriers for the folks that can’t get to a food-bank near them. Increase food assistance based funding for nonprofit organizations, both community-based and faith-based (such as churches, mosques, etc.) in their efforts to support their local community.
- Decentralize the food system with increased USDA funding for non-traditional Big Ag practices such as polyculture systems, greenhouse/hoop house production, regenerative agriculture and permaculture-based systems, and vertical-based farming
- Provide easy pathways for certification and licensing, such as subsidized government sponsored Commercial Driver License training for more semi-truck drivers on the road, simplified food safety certifications, facility certifications, etc.
- Support the economic viability of such non-traditional practices with increased funding for research into techniques and methods.
- Prohibit the revolving door between big Agribusinesses and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and support a community-driven approach.
- Radically increase the common-sense based programs and rights for farmers to increase the capacity and flexibility of our food system.
- Change the intent of food inspection systems to be friends to the farmer rather than the enemy, with expanded technical assistance programs, increased inspection on Big Ag and simplified and supportive programs for the small producers, and increased funding for small production infrastructure. It’s time to ease the burden on the small producer as they try to compete with Big Ag.
- Increase government backed equitable loan opportunities for small producers to purchase land, acquire much-needed infrastructure such as trailers, sem-trucks, and cover necessary operational expenses.
- Update our nation’s outdated nutrition guidelines so they keep up with the science of what constitutes healthy and nutritious food.
- Integrate nutritious food into the lunch system. Right now family after family depends on their children getting food from the cafeteria. Standardize the food so that nutrition and relevance are the immediate priority instead of an afterthought.
- Expand school lunch programs to be universal. Allow for universal free school meals and give children the ability to have healthy food every day.
- Give farmers and all Americans the Right to Repair their own equipment.
- Strengthen consumer protections by the FDA and USDA to make willfully malicious, and ignorant food safety issues a priority.
- Protect Food Stamp Programs and create incentives to support families in their purchases of fresh, nutritious foods.
- Strengthen humane slaughter and processing practices, to the levels similar to what is seen in New Zealand, to better treat and support the life of livestock, from start to finish. Implement appropriate science-based regulations that follow the recommendations of veterinarians and epidemiologists when it comes to things like antibiotic use, etc. To avoid creating super bacteria.
- Provide funding opportunities to strengthen America’s food system. For instance, grant opportunities for farmers, ranchers, nonprofits, etc. for infrastructure, equipment, operational costs, and more. Decrease the food cost and thereby decrease the future healthcare costs felt by the American people.
- Support regenerative agricultural practices that replenish soil nutrients, preserve our aquifers, and create a more sustainable food system.
- Ban advertising of food and drug products that specifically targets children. Whether this be junk food specifically for children or nicotine flavored vapes.
- Restrict limitations on the use and study of food, herbal, and medicinal-based organic goods. This means changing the classifications of certain goods to be considered food (like nettle for Tribal peoples). Descheduling marijuana, supporting research in non-traditional medicines such as psilocybin, etc.
- Regulate the approved pesticide and herbicides to ban those chemicals that contain scientifically proven carcinogens or neurotoxins. Tax producers of such chemical producers and apply the revenue toward the creation of greater accessibility and affordability of products that help the American people rather than hinder them..
- Federally subsidize food assistance programs in food desert areas, in keeping with a federal standard for minimum nutritional requirements.
- Deal aggressively with the safety hazard posed by contaminants in America’s drinking water. The battle for public health has been dropped from the EPA orientation in favor of a cost-benefit analysis, by both Democrats and Republicans. Under administrations from both parties, in over 20 years the EPA has not added a single drinking water contaminant to its list of dangerous chemicals to be regulated for health and safety. Out of tens of thousands of chemicals that contaminate our water, only 90 are regulated. And the question is why? What party is calling the shots? The answer is the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which operates solely on an economic basis. They’re looking out for the economic welfare of the country and the benefit of large corporations, but they’re not looking out for our public health.
The other problem with the OMB is that often the polluter is the government itself — NASA, Department of Defense and Department of Energy . Frequently, therefore, the OMB chooses to not have stronger regulation by the EPA because it would cost the government so much money to clean up its own mess.
The waste water coming out of hospitals and hospices is extremely toxic, and should have their own waste water remediation treatment just like factories with toxic waste do. This is just one of many ways that our water is contaminated, contributing to illness and many societal problems.