Factory Farms, Mark Bittman and TSCA — An Unlikely Trio

David Cassuto

Intriguing blog post by Mark Bittman, of all people, wondering whether industrial meat could be illegal under TSCA , the Toxic Substances Control Act (not to be confused with Tosca, the Puccini opera).  The argument would be that TSCA gives the EPA authority to regulate substances that pose “an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment,” which greenhouse gases do, and industrial agriculture is a prime source of greenhouse gases (which they are).  So… there’s a potential case to be made for the strict regulation of industrial agriculture under TSCA.

It’s a creative argument and I, of course, salute the intent.  But I’m skeptical.  As an initial matter, TSCA “does not include chemical substances subject to other US statutes such as foods and food additives, pesticides, drugs, cosmetics, tobacco, nuclear material, or munitions.” Greenhouse gases are indeed subject to other U.S. statutes (i.e. the Clean Air Act); this was the gravamen of the Massachusetts v. EPA case and the reason for the EPA’s recent “endangerment finding” that Bittman references in the post.  

Also, even if it were possible to regulate industrial agriculture under TSCA, the statute merely provides EPA with the authority to do so; it does not require the agency to act.  Given the vacuum that is federal agricultural regulation, I would not expect to see any agency cavalry riding into this particular breach anytime soon.

But hey; I’d love to be wrong.

One Response

  1. There’s a big movement going on right now to update TSCA based on all of the recent chemical testing that’s revealed all kinds of chemicals in children’s products, pet products, cars, accessories, etc:
    http://www.healthystuff.org/departments/pets/takeaction.federal.php

    So, now would be the time to advocate for food to be covered under TSCA. Generally food is a USDA issue, but when it comes to factory farming, there are so many chemicals involved that maybe an argument could be made. If enough people got on board with a campaign about toxics in food, it might at least put pressure on the USDA.

    If you wanted to start an animal welfare petition on Change.org for this campaign, let me know and I’ll post about it on the animal welfare blog. It’s definitely an interesting idea!

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