States’ rights vs. the Farm Bill

Squeezed in with cheddar price supports and swine surveillance: An amendment forbidding local bans on USDA-approved genetically modified organisms

Topics: California, Globalization, How the World Works, Monsanto, Biotechnology,

The House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry held a hearing Thursday morning to consider some proposed changes to the Farm Bill. Among the details under deliberation were fine-tuning price supports for cheddar cheese ($1.13 per pound for blocks, $1.10 per pound for barrels), various dairy incentive programs, and the establishment of a “swine surveillance program” to guard against the dread threat of pseudorabies spread by feral pigs.

Tucked in at the very end of the document is a provision that includes no explicit mention of livestock, dairy, or poultry: Section 123 reads: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no State or locality shall make any law prohibiting the use in commerce of an article that the Secretary of Agriculture has — (1) inspected and passed; or (2) determined to be of non-regulated status.”

The Center for Food Safety sent out an alert Thursday morning, moments before the hearing began, declaring that the amendment’s purpose was to prevent local communities from banning the farming of genetically modified organisms that had already been deemed “safe” by the USDA. If true, the episode offers a good example of why every step of the ongoing Congressional deliberations over the Farm Bill needs to be scrutinized as if one were a pig farmer on the lookout for pseudorabies. Whether you’re pro or con GMOs in the food supply, enacting a federal law that would disempower every town, city, county and state in the country from determining local standards for what can or cannot be farmed seems like a big deal.

Take California, for example. Four counties in California — Santa Cruz, Marin, Mendocino, and Trinity — have passed bans on the farming of GMOs. Another ten or so counties have either rejected proposed bans, or affirmatively declared protection of the right to farm GMOs. A state proposition that would have ended the ability of counties to individually set policy has failed to make it out of committee two years in a row. Clearly, the topic is a serious issue in California, where sentiment appears split along fairly predictable grounds: liberal counties with a high interest in organic agriculture are opposed to GMO farming (although Sonoma is a notable exception) and Central Valley counties dominated by industrial scale agribusinesses are pro.

Should local communities be able to set agricultural policy? That’s a hard question. Drawing the correct line between local autonomy and federal control is one of the stickiest problems a democracy faces. It’s especially tough when one feels a certain, shall we say, lack of confidence in how rigorous the USDA is in determining the safety, environmental impact, or economic consequences of the cultivation of new genetically modified organisms. Certainly, the decision by a San Francisco judge that the USDA had failed to conduct an adequate environmental impact assessment on genetically modified alfalfa lends support to those who feel that the federal government is not proceeding with the proper care.

But a county-by-country hopscotch approach to genetic modification also seems a bit screwy. Geneflow doesn’t respect country borders — if Sonoma says yes and Marin says no, that doesn’t mean organic farmers in Marin are protected from Monsanto-itis spread from Sonoma. Some level of higher coordination seems essential.

Which provides all the more reason why the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry is probably not the ideal venue for determining national policy on the issue.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>