Sanity prevails on the ‘Food Bill’…or does it?

Hey John Key...keep you hands off my carrots!

You may recall at the beginning of January I wrote a post on the so-called ‘Food Bill‘ with some scepticism at the reaction of some thinking things like this was the government trying to help big business copyright seeds…and other interesting claims.

Now I said at the time that it was a new issue for me and I needed to do more research, but my initial reaction was that it was  ‘noise’ that reminded me of the fear mongers over the ‘smacking bill’ claiming good parents will be imprisoned for speaking loudly to their children (yes that is tongue-in-cheek). The rhetoric felt to me unmeasured against the bill, which most hadn’t read.

So it is interesting today to see Brendan Hoare, organic agriculturalist, speaking out today saying basically there is no smoking gun here, there may be bad policy, but the conspiracy theorists needn’t worry.

Hoare, who has worked as an organic agriculturalist and educator for nearly 30 years, says there is no conspiracy; the bill just is a reflection of its writers – people “disconnected, ill-informed and poorly advised”.

Hoare goes on

Hoare is part of an organic farming collective on Auckland’s west coast that includes the sharing of resources between animal farmers, a beekeeper, and fruit and vegetable farmers. “Theoretically now, that is under the microscope. It’s ridiculous. It’s not done out of design. It’s done out of ignorance.”

He said the bill as it might apply to operations such as his own would be impossible to enforce, and there would likely be a revolt against it. “People have written it not understanding that there is a counter-culture that doesn’t want it. They are speaking different languages.”

However this won’t put to bed the conspiracy theorists, there is a famous old saying that goes, “For those that believe no proof is needed, for those that don’t no proof is enough.”

You just need to look at some of the comments online to see that for those that think this is John Key wanting to control your carrots, no coherent, logical point…made from one of their own…will change their position.

The hubbub on the ‘Food Regulation Bill’

I have to be honest, this is a new ‘issue’ for me, I only really first heard about it last week so am pretty green on the whole thing. I am going to investigate it over the next few weeks and will come back to you, but these are my initial thoughts and explanations to you about the Food Bill (160-2) 2010.

There is concern amongst some that the implementation of this bill with result in regulators turning up to places like farmers markets to ‘regulate’ what is going on. Those that oppose it say it will “seriously impede initiatives like community gardens, food co-ops, heritage seed banks, farmers markets, bake sales, and roadside fruit & vegetable stalls.” Those that support it say it won’t.

There is a petition here for people to sign who are opposed to the bill, but I gotta say you should only sign it if you have done the work to understand this issue fully and not believed the apparent rhetoric coming from either side of the debate.

Those who are in support of the bill are saying that it will make our food ‘point of sales’ safer and cleaner, companies that are putting millions of dollars into developing new seed technology are also in support of the bill as it gives them more security around their patented product.

I have to say one of the more balanced articles I have read is from then Green Party MP Sue Kedgley where amongst other things Ms. Kedgley addressed the concern of small time vegetable operators being captured in this legislation unwittingly by saying that the authorities that will be responsible for implementing the law “will be able to exempt entire categories of groups, such as those engaged in bartering or selling direct to consumers at Farmers Markets from coverage of the bill, and this is their intention.

Isn’t that the end of the conversation?

Maybe not, and here is why.

I have been listening to the rhetoric for the past week…and if you replaced “private citizens with veggie gardens” with the word “parents” then what you’ve got is the anti-smacking bill ‘debate’ all over again. Where people were concerned about the technical possibility of what the law could do, and ignoring the reality of how it will be implemented.

All those parents getting thrown in jail for touching their children’s shoulders hasn’t happened has it?

Sue Kedgley seems to be saying there are some gaps in this legislation that need to be addressed, and it’s likely they will.

However in saying all this I’ll come back to the point that these are just my first meanderings on this issue and I am happy to hear more from you as to what I’ve missed, and what I have right (if anything).