Natural Foods Merchandiser

House bill would give FDA $90.7 billion

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $90.7 billion funding bill last month for the Food and Drug Administration that will strengthen food safety standards, increase food research efforts and improve renewable energy projects if passed by the Senate and signed by the president. While the White House has already threatened to veto the bill on the grounds it spends too much, industry leaders and some politicians are hopeful the legislation will pass.

David Seckman, CEO and executive director of the Natural Products Association, said even if President Bush vetoes the bill, a compromise is likely to take place. "Everyone knows there needs to be more money for the FDA, and this bill urges government officials to give a longer, harder look at the FDA's budget and funding," Seckman said. "The NPA has long advocated that the FDA should get more money. And I think that with the issues with China, we've got more members of Congress who are aware of the [food safety] problems, and that's probably going to be a positive thing."

Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said she was proud of the bill and the goals it strives to accomplish, in a statement on her Web site.

"Ultimately, the appropriations included [in the bill] represent modest increases, yet they make a big difference—providing basic services to rural communities, feeding those in need, ensuring the long-term stewardship of our lands and transforming our food safety system," DeLauro said. "The challenges we address in this bill will not go away—overnight or with the passage of this one bill. But we have a responsibility to pursue a bold vision … it is up to us to do it together and to do it for the future of our communities, farmers and families—and our future as a nation."

In addition to calling on the FDA to set clear goals for an overhaul of its food safety operations by July 2009, the bill also provides $46.6 million to fund affordable loans and grants for farm laborer housing and $500 million for new wind energy projects. It also provides more than $100 million for research and education, supporting studies in areas such as crop development, international trade, nutrition research and responsiveness to food safety threats.

The U.S. House passed the bill 237-18, with most Republicans refusing to vote. It was reported that Republicans expressed a feeling of being muzzled by the Democratic majority, while Democrats said their Republican counterparts were trying to filibuster. A Senate vote on the legislation is expected to occur after its summer recess ends in early September.

Said DeLauro: "Each of [the bill's] key goals is about finally meeting the federal government's obligation to its citizens—about assuming responsibility again for the things we are supposed to get right. Now is exactly the wrong time to be undermining the critical efforts of this bill."

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 9/p. 21

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