The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended the deadline to comment on its two proposed food safety rules until this Friday, November 22. Many people reported trouble accessing the federal comments website, regulations.gov, last week. FDA has been flooded with so many comments about its proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules that it had to create an additional window of time to give everyone a chance to weigh in. FDA has received over 17,000 comments so far.
With this extension, we have an opportunity to tell FDA why it should draft a full environmental impact statement on the proposed Preventive Controls Rule. Currently, it plans to conduct no environmental review at all. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), FDA must produce an environmental impact statement, or EIS, if its rule significantly affects the human environment. Drafting an EIS is important because then FDA must (1) assess all potentially significant environmental impacts of the proposed rule, (2) consider all viable alternatives to the rule, and (3) craft mitigation measures for any significant impacts it cannot avoid. FDA must also give the public an opportunity to comment on the scope of the environmental review and on the EIS itself.
This issue has slipped under the radar, but CLF is working to show FDA why a thorough environmental review is critical. Initially, FDA was not going to draft an environmental impact statement for its proposed Produce Safety Rule either, but has since announced that it will. The rules are so interconnected that FDA cannot reasonably assess the full environmental impact of one rule without also assessing the other. A central problem with both rules is that compliance costs for small farms may force them to shut down. Assessing only the Produce Safety Rule will miss the many additional small farms that the Preventive Controls Rule may drive out of business.
How could this affect the environment? Here are a just a few examples. Farms, especially small farms like those in New England, often use practices that protect habitat and wildlife. Such habitat protection includes: creating riparian buffer strips; allowing recently cropped lands to lie idle; planting food crops for wildlife; maintaining diverse woodlands and native grasslands; and planting native wildflower crops. If small farms shut down, that farmland would likely be developed, eliminating important wildlife habitat. Consumers and buyers will shift from consuming produce from these smaller, local farms, to larger farms at a greater distance from the point of purchase, increasing fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, FDA claims it does not have to assess any of these potentially significant environmental impacts from the proposed Preventive Controls Rule.
Please take just a few minutes to let FDA know why sustainable agriculture and local food matter to you.