Senator Kevin Smith
|March 13, 1999|
Dear Senator Scott & Representative Milum:
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression opposes House Bill 1938, a bill that could have prevented the publication of some of the most important books in American history, including Upton Sinclairs The Jungle and Rachel Carsons Silent Spring. ABFFE represents the nations independent booksellers, including members in Little Rock, Rogers and Blytheville.
H.B. 1938 authorizes a producer of a perishable food product to sue anyone who disseminates disparaging information about a product if that person knows or should have known that their claim is not based on reliable, scientific facts. The producer can recover both compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorneys fees and costs.
H.B. 1938 could result in the suppression of books and magazines that make claims about the safety of our food supply. Booksellers are not scientists and cannot tell what are reliable, scientific facts. To avoid a possible lawsuit, they will be forced to stop selling any works that make controversial statements about food products. Had such a law been on the books at the time, they would not have sold Sinclairs study of the meat-packing industry or Carsons investigation of the effect of pesticides.
If booksellers are not free to sell controversial works, everyones freedom is at risk. Please support the First Amendment.