Society and Culture

Against the Law to Grow Your Own Food?

Gardens of Crime: Does The Government Want To Punish Self-Sufficiency?

Vegetable gardens are something I always remember my grandparents having while I was growing up. Nothing tasted better than the tomatoes and bell peppers that were eaten fresh just moments after they were picked. Still warm from the sun, with all the flavor that nature intended. It is certainly much healthier than the stuff bought in the grocery store! And if you had told me then that there would be any cause for concern or legal ramifications for growing food on property, I would have said to go back to reading science fiction novels. However, some believe that the current laws in place regarding food production are leading this country into the hands of complete government control.

Some have been fined and even jailed for refusing to move their gardens in their own yards!

Home Grown Tomatoes

What on earth? This can’t be happening, this is America! However, while some of the hype is just that… hype… there are some real concerns now about having gardens at home. And of course, it is all done with the words ‘safety first’. Seems like the government likes to decide what is safe and what is not by hiding behind created laws that are based in some need to protect the American citizens from some kind of danger. The Patriot Act after September 11, 2001 was done for ‘our own safety’ and it has resulted in less requirements for search and seizure of properties and vehicles.

Along the same lines is the Food Modernization Act that was introduced two years ago and after a few changes, signed into law by President Obama in January of 2011. This was allegedly done in response to outbreaks of E-Coli that were related to the mishandling of food and food products. It was for our own safety.

All sounds good, doesn’t it? After all these years, we must know that if it sounds too good and it seems like the government cares too much – maybe we should be asking twice as many questions.

Food Safety Modernization Act

In 2009, a bill known as HR 875 was introduced to Congress. This bill, known as the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, was originally proposed by the Democratic Representative of Connecticut, Rosa L. DeLauro in response to the large food poisoning outbreaks of salmonella and E coli that had taken place in recent years. It would require any food production facility to fall under more rigid standards before any product was consumed.

A Food Safety Administration would be implemented within the ranks of the Department of Health and devote its time to the research and prevention of food-borne illness as well as stringent requirements before food passed government inspection. The bill in its original wording did not pass into law, however two modified versions were presented in 2010.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (SB 510) was signed on January 4, 2011 into law – and this has had many who question the government’s motives extremely concerned for the future of self-sufficient gardening.

Do Companies Such as Monsanto Stand to Gain from Laws Geared Toward Not Allowing Home Gardens?

Some of the concerns have been exaggerated, in particular the claim that DeLauro’s marriage to Stanley Greenberg, the CEO of Greenberg/Quinlan Research Inc. put her at odds with the nature of the bill. The speculation was that Monsanto, a huge food and agriculture corporation headquartered in Missouri, had business dealings with Greenberg and the ‘research facility’ was simply a smokescreen for direct dealings with Monsanto. This in turn leads to speculation that Monsanto has a vested interest in this bill to gain a food production monopoly. There is nothing that can conclusively prove this connection and all parties involved have denied having any business dealings for at least a decade. It has also been argued that there is no language in the bill that directly controls the production of organic and home gardening.

Or does it? Many believe that the law is the beginning of the end for the self-sufficient gardener. The fear is that the regulations on food production under this law will attempt to force people to buy only government approved produce. While some rumors of the law have been exaggerated, such as farmer’s market’s being forced to shut down due to impossible regulations (there is nothing whatsoever in the wording that refers to this), there are some legitimate concerns. Even more alarming is that since this law has introduced, real people having to face fines and prosecution.

Cases of Prosecution for Home Gardens

Michelle Obama (

In Oak Park, Michigan during July of 2011, a woman was charged for violating city ordinances by having a vegetable garden in her front yard. Now while many will argue that this is city issue, what was interesting is that in looking at the city ordinance laws, vegetable gardens, especially those neatly kept as this one was, are not in violation.

So are these minor city offenses going to be blown up out of proportion?

The case was dropped against this woman and she did not go to jail over her garden. She plans to continue growing her vegetables and truly believes that the public opinion swayed the DA’s office. People spoke up… because now they are realizing that the threat is not just the ramblings of the conspiracy theorists but rather a step to government control into how we take care of ourselves and our families.

After all, if Michelle Obama can plant vegetables in the front lawn of the White House to promote childhood health, why can’t everyone?

Another case in Georgia involved a man growing vegetables in his back yard. The city issued an ordinance violation, saying that his garden was ‘too large’. He was given a fine of $5,000 for the crime of growing his own food and selling the surplus. According to the ordinance, there is a ‘fine line’ between growing food commercially and growing for personal use. This happened in 2010, before the Food Safety Modernization Act became law, but during the time of the changes being made to the original legislation. Is it simply a coincidence that these cases are coming to light since its introduction?

The danger here is taking every case that is a city violation and stretching the circumstances to make it fit a conspiracy. But even more dangerous is simply putting our heads in the sand and saying that there is absolutely no connection and that the law does not have any real concern to self-sufficiency.

Anytime the government steps in for ‘our own good’, the guard should be up and we should question what is being done for our supposed protection.

Genuine Concerns About Growing Your Own Food

At this time, the only criminal charges for having a home garden have fallen under city ordinances that for some reason are being enforced now more than ever. The timing of that, if nothing else, has people in an uproar about the future of self-sufficiency. However, we must also be aware that there is more focus on those cases than there used to be because of this bill. And yes, it is very interesting that a highly publicized case of an attempt to prosecute a gardener came to light a mere six months after the bill had been signed into law, but if the law were not an issue – how far would the news have gotten? Are we looking too hard for examples?

The true concern with this law as it stands now is that the smaller farmer is going to be at a disadvantage financially. If only supplies and pesticides that are government approved are allowed for farming, what will happen to the organic farmer? Many of these food producers are not going to be in the same financial position to cover the costs and fees that will be in place to have an established government-approved farm. Some believe that this is simply a quiet, unassuming way to gain control and power over those who want to be as self sufficient as possible as well as putting the organic farmer out of business.

The voices from the government are whispering in our ears to ‘hush now – all is well and it is for your own good’. But how is a government agency being in that much power of food production a good thing?

Why are ordinances that have not been enforced in years suddenly a bigger priority?

And why does the safety of our country from foreign terrorists always factor in to the propaganda when it is hawked for approval?

Keeping rainwater in barrels is illegal in some states.

Saving seeds has come under intimidation. An example would be Monsanto not allowing the farmers in Missouri to save their soybean seeds, saying that it violated ‘seed privacy’.

And now a law that will only benefit large business food production while cracking down on the farmers who can’t pay to get around the loopholes.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2012

Improve Your Neighborhood! Plant a garden



2 replies on “Against the Law to Grow Your Own Food?”

I do not think I have ever heard of a Gardner causing a pandemic outbreak of e coli or whatever
By comparison I have heard of many large food companies have major issues with the viability of their products with respect to health scares.
I think that such a legal approach to self sustenance is taking away the very essence of what America stands for ie democracy, freedom and entrepreneurial spirit.
It is interesting to note that in Cuba where I once worked,bb the government as far as understood at one stage made it illegal for people to grow their own food. The Cuban government has I believe since rescinded this law so I am somewhat amazed at the Michigan law doing what the Cubans have since moved away from.

According to Vandan Shiva Monsanto is distroying biodiversity by forcing indian farmers to use there seed which must be bought each year reduces yields and require more water than indigenous crops. hope they don’t start this stuff here.