As a parent, you make daily decisions to ensure the health and safety of your family: from proper car seat installation, to installing smoke alarms, to selecting the most trustworthy child care. And as an American parent, you’d like to believe that government agencies like the EPA and USDA are doing their best to safeguard public health, protecting our families from health dangers.
Unfortunately, corporate interests have compromised both of those organizations. In 2015, the EPA and USDA may be rendered even more ineffective by issues that are now on the table.
Back in November, the House of Representatives passed bill H.R. 1422, which, according to Salon, would restrict including scientists in the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board and “make room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.” The law, which affects public health, if passed, would prevent scientists from advising the EPA in their own fields of expertise. In other words, they would appoint fewer scientists to this “science board” and appoint more “industry experts,” who could have a financial stake in decisions.
The EPA has already been tainted by such experts, including past leadership hailing from the ranks of Monsanto management. If Hillary Clinton, a former lawyer at a firm representing Monsanto and recent GMO advocate, is elected president in 2016, one wonders how this law will affect her selection of EPA appointees.
A second problematic bill, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014, H.R.4012, is touted as providing greater transparency for the EPA. According to RollCall.com, this bill is would require the EPA to “make all data public before adapting new rules”. Sounds great, right? However, in cases where raw data cannot legally be published, the EPA would be forced avoid making any rules or changes, even where public health is concerned, if it cannot publish that data. This Catch-22 waters down the efficacy of the EPA.
As we reported in November, the DARK Act is another troubling bill. Misleadingly titled the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014,”this bill would prevent states from enforcing GMO labeling, effectively taking away a state’s right to label food as they see fit.” While the time frame expired for this bill to be passed in 2014, a hearing was held in December and it is reasonable to assume that, since it has bipartisan support, it could come up again. While Obama has pledged to veto it, it would probably have a stronger position in 2017 if Clinton is elected president.
TAINTED DIETARY GUIDELINES
However, laws affecting public health are not the only issue in 2015. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently met, as they do every 5 years, to update “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” These guidelines are meant to set a healthy standard for American eating habits. This year, things were supposed to change to include the effect of environment on health. Rick Paulas reports that nutritionist Dr. Kate Clancy was invited to speak about promoting public health as having a partnership with sustainable agricultural practices. This would mean that the role of environment in food production should influence the new guidelines. However, Congress passed a spending bill this winter containing “congressional directives” – advice on how to address certain issues in the budget. One of those directives criticizes the idea of addressing “agriculture production processes and environmental factors” – that is, how your food is farmed, raised and produced. Instead, Congress advised the committee to stick to traditional nutrient and dietary recommendations. Paulus believes this tactic will pressure them to “bully nutritionists into saying there’s no link between a person’s health and the environment.”
Let’s stop and think about that for a moment. In recent years, there has been a rise in cancer, Parkinson’s disease, childhood cancer, asthma, ADHD and food allergies. Now, the government will not even consider the effect of environmental factors when setting eating guidelines, including unsustainable production standards or toxic pesticides. (Pesticides have been linked to Parkinson’s, at least.)
Huffington Post reports that there has been considerable pushback from the meat industry, which claims the panel is already promoting more plant-based foods in their next issue of dietary guidelines. The industry has noticed that Americans are eating less meat and is disturbed by the idea of new guidelines, claiming, “an environmental agenda has no place in what has always been a practical blueprint for a healthy lifestyle.” To put it another way, environment does not impact health.
WHAT CAN A PARENT DO?
It will be interesting to see how these directives will impact the USDA’s 2015 issue of “Dietary Guidelines for Americans”, and whether Congress passes bills that can immobilize sensible laws affecting public health. Obama has promised to veto the bills, but we must keep these issues in mind for 2016 as well. We always say to vote with your dollar, but in the next 2 years, it will be important to look at where candidates stand on issues affecting your food and your family’s health.
Meanwhile, it’s up to us parents to safeguard the food we are feeding our families. Mamavation believes in eating organic or Non-GMO Project Verified foods as much as you can afford to, while using common sense guidelines for everything else, such as avoiding fast food, processed meals and the Dirty Dozen of produce. If the government won’t protect our children, we are their last, best defense.