Food Freedom Dodged Bullets in 2013

For food freedom, 2013 was a banner year that saw the defeat of several potentially awful laws and regulations.

With the end of the year upon us, I'm using this last column of 2013 to look back (as I did last year) at the year in food policy.

While my 2012 highlights focused mainly on the year's many success stories, this year's highlights look a bit different. Why? It's not that the year didn't result in successes for food freedom. It did (see here, here, or here, for example).

But when I look back on 2013, the year appears to me largely to be a story not of the good news that happened but of the bad news that didn't. And that's good news.

Here are five key examples that explain why 2013 was sweet thanks to laws and regulations that didn't come to fruition.

1) FDA Bows to Pressure, Scraps Proposed Food Safety Modernization Act Rules

Last year the FDA proposed two key rules for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act, a sweeping food safety overhaul that became law in 2011. I hated the FSMA from the get go, arguing it would cost a ton of money and wouldn't make our food safer. Once the FDA released this set of proposed rules for public comment last year, the only legitimate criticism of my initial skepticism was that I hadn't been skeptical enough. Nearly $1 billion to make food up to 5% safer, all while putting small farmers out of business? No thanks. Blowback against the proposed rules was so great that the FDA was forced earlier this month to scrap the proposed rules and start all over. That's a tremendous victory.

2) New York City's Soda Ban Loses in Court (Twice!)

The reviled and unconstitutional proposal by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's health department to ban some subjectively large soda choices forced a lawsuit in 2012. The plaintiffs--a diverse coalition that includes groups representing unions, restaurants, and soda companies--won the first round in court this past spring. New York State Judge Milton Tingling referred to the ban in his decision as “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences." An appeals court upheld Judge Tingling's decision this past summer. New York City has one last chance to rescucitate the ban before the state's highest court. But, as I wrote in the wake of Judge Tingling's ruling, the soda ban is dead.

3) Voters Reject Washington State's Mandatory GMO Labeling Law

Washington State voters rejected a ballot measure that would have forced food makers around the country to slap a "contains GMOs" label on food products sold in the state. I'm opposed to mandatory labeling like this for a variety of reasons. Instead, I support voluntary labeling. Voters in Washington State--along with those in California, where a similar ballot measure was rejected last year--appear to agree with me. And while Connecticut's state legislature became the first to pass a mandatory GMO labeling measure, the law is so convoluted it will likely never take effect.

4) Another Farm Bill Fails to Pass

Congress passes an awful Farm Bill laden with billions of dollars in needless subsidies every five years. That's been the case for more than six decades. But that Farm Bill clockwork is no longer. Sure, the subsidies are still there. And that needs to change. But passage of a new Farm Bill is no longer a given. In fact, Congress failed to pass a new Farm Bill in 2012 and 2013 despite pleas from typically powerful supporters--farm state congressmen, national and state farmers unions, and the USDA. While it would be an overstatement to suggest these farm interests have lost their considerable power, their legislative failures and largely ignored Chicken Little clucks--along with the broad consensus that farm subsidies are a waste of taxpayer money--don't bode well for the future of the Farm Bill. And that's great news.

5) "Ag Gag" Laws Lose Steam

2013 was a bad year for so-called "ag gag" laws, which criminalize various facets of information gathering pertaining to the treatment of farm animals. And that's a good thing for farmers, consumers, and animals alike. First, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam vetoed a bill that would have created an ag gag law in his state. Then, PETA and other animal rights groups sued Utah in federal court, seeking to overturn that state's ag gag law. As I wrote earlier this year, those who claim filming farm animals shouldn’t be protected under the Constitution because it’s a “politically motivated” means of popularizing an “anti-meat agenda” appear to be unfamiliar with the Constitution. One needn't love PETA to recognize that a government that can take away the rights of members of that group may do so to the rights of people in other marginalized groups.

2013 will go down as the year of big, bad, scary things that might have happened but didn't. From the FDA scrapping its proposed Food Safety Modernization Act rules to the failure of mandatory GMO labeling to New York City's flailing soda ban, I'm happy to raise a glass to the bullets that food freedom dodged in 2013.

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  • ||

    Damn you Baylen and your optimism. I want to hear about how things are getting worse and get those damn kids off my lawn.

  • From the Tundra||

    Come on, Snark, let Baylen have his moment. The shitheads will be back to trying to ban raw milk and other goodies before you know it.

  • ||

    Okay, but I don't want to see it followed up with Nick telling us how amazingly libertarian and "independent" everyone became in 2013.

  • lap83||

    He will

    1. Calls for new regulations based on "those racist teabaggers" were down significantly in the second half of 2013 compared to the first.

    2. People of all political stripes miraculously embraced the free market in the last 2 months of the year.

    3. Some pot stores opened.

    4. Some gay people got marriage licenses.

    5. Cocktail party dresses are, like, totally on trend for winter 2013

  • BakedPenguin||

    Anyway, you live in Czechland and don't have a lawn. Also, you're probably married to Daniela Pestova and therefore don't have a right to complain, either.

  • ||

    Peštová is way too old, geez she's almost as old as me.

  • RishJoMo||

    dude that mkes sense
    www.BeinAnon.tk

  • ||

    Maybe it's because I'm a grouchy insomniac, but all I see here is a temporary reprieve. Regulators never give up.

  • From the Tundra||

    Even the Chinese hate GMOs:

    http://www.latimes.com/busines.....z2oh2hC2CV

    Chinese authorities said the shipments have been returned and are urging American officials to improve their "inspection procedures to ensure they comply with Chinese quality standards.

    Ouch, that's gotta hurt. Lectured in food quality control by China.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Lead contamination? No problem. Just don't allow any of that GMO shit.

  • From the Tundra||

    Lead is an essential mineral, right? Like melamine in baby food...

  • ||

    I'm surprised someone hasn't tried to mandate we buy vegetables. Or that we are asked to subsidize people in order to buy organic.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Here's an article by Zoe Williams (some idiot) at the Guardian claiming the solution to public health issues like obesity is food rationing, and that only big government can solve these health issues. Fascist.

    http://www.theguardian.com/com.....government

  • ||

    I'm not even sure if that's what she's trying to say, she's so incomprehensibly stupid.

    Here's a blog post debunking the so-called decline in infant mortality during WWII, notably with this graph. It was clearly going down throughout the century in a linear fashion until interrupted by rationing during the war.

  • Sevo||

    Lady Bertrum|12.28.13 @ 9:25AM|#
    "Here's an article by Zoe Williams (some idiot) at the Guardian claiming the solution to public health issues like obesity is food rationing,"...

    You know who else rationed food...

  • ||

    Wal-mart?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    FDR?

  • ||

    Wow. Just wow.

    If these people had their way, life would be indistinguishable from life in a prison camp.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Well, you'll still get your Soma so stop your bitching. It won't be called Soma, though; it's now called Zoloft or Paxil.

    The future does seems like some grotesque highbred dystopia. All the private surveillance of Big Brother combined with the ethical retardation of Brave New World.

  • ||

    From the comments:

    "A complete sugar ban would be worth considering, except in jam, where it's needed as a preservative, but there are no other culinary uses where sweeteners can't be substituted, ( if you must have that 'flavour' at all ).

    With strict rationing of raisins, currants etc too, and fruit, which has been given alarmingly good press in recent years, despite it's killer sugar content."

    Holy Mother of Jesus and God.

    They vote. That's the scary thing.

    Ban sugar....except in jam where it's needed as a preservative?

    I can't even begin...

  • ||

    More comments:

    "It's the largesse to the rich, the privileged and the bankers that we need to ration.
    Then there would be more than enough to go round for everybody."

    Yeah. Go get your pitch fork, asshole.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    The left in Britain is completely ape-shite crazy. They're basically neo-fascists.

  • lap83||

    It seems to me like those people are unavoidable in wealthy countries. It's rich, white people problems applied to politics. "Oh, I saw a fat poor person today! It traumatized me! What can we do??" They have literally no perspective on what constitutes a real problem for most of the world.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Here's an article by Zoe Williams (some idiot) at the Guardian claiming the solution to public health issues like obesity is food rationing, and that only big government can solve these health issues. Fascist.

    He's got a point.

    Obesity was never a problem in worker's paradises of central planning like Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Stalin's Ukraine, the Kim's Korea etc.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Obesity was never a problem in worker's paradises of central planning like

    Yeah, the fat people evidently all ran away to Hong Kong during the "Three Bad Years."

    Yep, that sure was a Great Leap Forward.

  • OneOut||

    They ran the idea up the flag pole.

    Remember the initial talk about "food deserts" and selling "fresh fruits and vegetables at the liquor store".

    That was a trial balloon for government owned grocery stores, with subsidies like Obamacare.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    An interview with Camille Paglia - she says disaster impends as manliness is suppressed and proper male role models aren't being held up:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/art.....hp_opinion

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I think the advent of Michelle Malkins and Ann Coulters has made Paglia rather superfluous.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    Rather.

  • Pompey||

    Baylen, although your posts don't draw massive comment volume, your jfocusis right up there with economic freedom, the right to bear arms, and free association.

    By attacking what we ingest, as proposed and dictated by powerful nannies, an ancient aand essential primitive prerogative is undermined and that has to stop. Controversy over raw milk is particularly repulsive since it is one of man's most ancient source of nourishment and certainly one of the first cultivated forms. Although I am personally not into raw milk, is restriction is akin to prohibiting farmstands from peddling wares unless fruits and vegetables have been irradiated.

    Thank you for another great year and keep up the good fight of exposing nonsense.

  • Jordan||

    I absolutely agree.

  • Pi Guy||

    Thirded

  • Aloysious||

    thirded.

  • Aloysious||

    *sigh*
    Must refresh, at least once in a while.

    fourthded.

  • SForza||

    Fifthed.

  • Sub Specie AEternitatis||

    Nearly $1 billion to make food up to 5% safer, all while putting small farmers out of business?

    Three cheers for Linnekin's work defending food freedom, but this does not strike me as a good argument.

    In a huge and rich country, $1 billion is a pretty small sum to pay to improve food safety. Or to put it another way, I'd happily pay my pro-capita share ($3) for a 5% reduction in food borne illnesses. Even avoiding one night's stomach pain due to food poisoning is cheap at that price.

    The real harm of these regulations is that they reduce food choices and freedom, all of which is reflected in lost consumer surplus. These true costs, which are never included in various bureaucratic valuations of regulation, likely dwarf that $1 billion official price tag and are the best true reason to hate on food regs.

  • Sevo||

    ..."I'd happily pay my pro-capita share ($3) for a 5% reduction in food borne illnesses."...
    OK, but if you're not paying my share too, you can keep your "food safety tax".

    ..."Even avoiding one night's stomach pain due to food poisoning is cheap at that price."...
    I see an assertion, but no evidence.

  • Acosmist||

    He'd pay 3 dollars to avoid that pain. He needs to cite evidence that that's what he said? Uh?

  • Sevo||

    Acosmist|12.28.13 @ 4:14PM|#
    "He'd pay 3 dollars to avoid that pain. He needs to cite evidence that that's what he said? Uh?"

    There is an implied assertion that the $3 would save one night's bellyache. Nowhere is that shown; it is asserted.

  • Jordan||

    I'm not sure where he got the 5% number from. In a previous article, he said the best case scenario would be to reduce the yearly incidence of foodborn illness from 48 million to 46 million. That means reducing your chances of getting sick in one year from 16% to 15.3%, or a 0.96% improvement.

  • Jordan||

    Doh, I'm an idiot. That's a 4.4% reduction. But the risk is already so low, that the reduction is meaningless.

  • Sevo||

    ..."That's a 4.4% reduction. But the risk is already so low, that the reduction is meaningless."

    Not to someone spending *your* money, it isn't.

  • Ted S.||

    When the Nanny Staters talk about "quality of life", they never take into account that I'd have a happier life if I didn't have to constantly hear Nanny Staters try to take my liberty away.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Or to put it another way, I'd happily pay my pro-capita share ($3) for a 5% reduction in food borne illnesses.

    Even if the reduction was from 1 in 100,00 meals to 0.95 per 100,000 meals?

  • Sevo||

    "Even if the reduction was from 1 in 100,00 meals to 0.95 per 100,000 meals?"

    Now, look. You keep putting those funny stats in real numbers, someone is going to get upset!

  • Acosmist||

    the butthurt is strong with this one

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Speaking of food, a deer jumped into the cheetah enclosure at the National Zoo, with predictable results. Next, a deer cleans and guts itself, pours A-1 sauce on itself, and jumps into someone's kitchen.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....story.html

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Funny. Reminds me of when I asked White Indian if she thought deer would just present themselves and slit their own throats for her.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The zoo said the cheetahs appeared unharmed.

    That's some damn fine journalism.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Unharmed? Wait till their next Weight Watchers meeting, when they find out how that deer threw off their diet.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Sounds like they went on Atkins instead.

    I was just reading about how in 2008 the Cleveland zoo put Mokolo the gorilla on a diet that better resembles a wild gorilla's food. He eats double the calories and lost weight.

  • Suellington||

    I would go to the zoo more often if they threw a goat or deer in to the big cats now and then.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Maybe they got food poisoning.

  • Sevo||

    We can lower the chance by 5% for $1Bn.

  • SueNichollsera||


    my roomate's half-sister makes 74 dollars an hour on the laptop. She has been without a job for 7 months but last month her check was 19922 dollars just working on the laptop for a few hours. published here

    http://www.tec30.com

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