Go back to bed America, your government is in control –Comedian Bill Hicks
Men are often responsible for “putting groceries on the table”, but it is usually women who shop for and prepare food for the family. Unless you are one of those lucky women whose husband does the cooking, you are probably the resident food expert in your house. As such, it is assumed you are qualified to figure out how (and what) to feed your family.
Our meals reflect our cultural roots, our values and our lifestyles. What we eat is a vital part of who we are. In America, we have been fortunate to enjoy readily available, wholesome and affordable food, as well as an abundance of choices. We choose the foods we think best suited for our families, that’s why I get concerned when outsiders want to step in and control our choices–like the meddlesome do-gooder who made a preschooler buy a school lunch of chicken nuggets, after declaring the turkey & cheese sandwich her mother packed unhealthy.
Say what? That doesn’t make any sense, but increasingly there are many things going one with our food supply that are equally puzzling. For years we’ve been told to avoid foods with too much fat, sugar, or sodium. The government has urged us to refrain from eating processed foods, but now it seems our government agencies don’t want us eating natural foods either.
The First Lady, has made it her mission to try to lower obesity in our children. It’s a noble goal, but public policy rarely changes private behavior. Prohibition didn’t stop drinking, speed limits haven’t stopped speeding, and “Just Say No” hasn’t stopped kids from trying drugs. Likewise, there is no amount of government cheerleading or education likely to make those of us who enjoy eating, switch to rice cakes and water.
But, for the sake of argument, if I were to suddenly be motivated to follow Michele Obama’s lead, I’d probably start by eating the healthiest fruits and vegetables available. That would mean locally grown, organic produce farmed with sustainable methods, dairy products from grass pastured cattle, and meat from animals that hadn’t been pumped full of hormones. One would think that would earn me some points with the president who promised us the “greenest” administration, but it is just as likely I’d earn an FBI file for associating with food-producing felons.
Over the last few years increasing numbers of farmers, ranchers and other food producers have found themselves on the wrong side of the law, for doing what Americans have done legally for more than 200 years–producing food. Take the very peculiar story of raw milk supplier James Stewart. His Venice, CA business, Rawesome Foods, was raided by armed gunmen in something akin to a S.W.A.T. action. Approximately 500 gallons of raw milk were destroyed. Stewart alleges he wasn’t shown a warrant or read his rights, yet he was shackled, arrested, and held without bond for a bail higher than Jerry Sandusky’s. Stewart also alleges he was tortured while incarcerated.
The raid was conducted under the guise of food safety, but those who drink raw milk, do so because they believe it has health benefits, not found in pasteurized milk. Raw milk is occasionally contaminated by E. coli, and other dangerous pathogens, like those occaisionally found in the foods inspected by federal regulatory agencies. It is known that raw milk, like other farm products can cause illnesses, but unless there is more to this story, it doesn’t make sense. At least the customers of Rawesome Foods were required to sign waivers, stating they were aware of dangers associated with raw milk, before they were allowed to purchase it.
Then there was the case of the Food-to-Fork dinner party held at Quail Hollow Farms. Guests paid to attend what should have been and exquisite harvest feast, but shortly before dinner was to be served, the atmosphere of the dinner party turned to that of a drug raid. Ignoring those pesky laws prohibiting unlawful search and seizure, the food prepared for the occasion, was dumped into garbage cans and doused with bleach. Once again the justification for the raid was public health and safety, though the food destroyed was arguably of a higher quality than what most of us regularly eat. What happened at Quail Hollow doesn’t make sense.
This past month, legislation in Michigan required some hog farmers to destroy their livestock. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources called for the destruction of a certain natural resource, known as heritage pigs. These naturally occurring breeds were neither diseased, nor defective, but they threatened the business interests of larger pork producers who raise and sell genetically modified pigs. With nothing more than a vague set of criteria, pigs that didn’t look like those bred by big pork producers were to be destroyed, or their owners would face felony charges. Curly tails, floppy ears and colors other than pink, are enough to get those pigs the death sentence. In Michigan it is not permissible to eat natural pork, but it is perfectly acceptable for big business to eat small farmers.
Across the nation, there are attacks on American agriculture. Water is withheld from farmers causing the loss of jobs and livelihoods. Ranch and farmlands are seized to protect species nobody cares about, with little regard for the species of homo-sapiens, who will become endangered without food. Activist groups, like PETA and Humane Society of The United States, won’t rest until America becomes a third-world country like India–starving while surrounded by environmental sacred cows. The latest assault on farmers, is the Labor Department’s attempt to overturn an American tradition, by making it illegal for kids to do chores on family farms.
Though most would would agree saving the planet, food safety and child labor laws are good, when things done in the “public interest” are detrimental to ordinary Americans, one has to wonder whose interests are being served. Campaigning in 2007, Obama vowed his administration would not cater to the special interests of agribusiness giants like Con-Agra, but despite his pledge, he was quick to appoint several individuals linked to agri-chemical manufacturers, like Dupont, Danforth Science, and Monsanto, to important government positions.
Baby boomers may remember Monsanto as the company who first gave us a glimpse of the future at Disneyland, but their Tomorrowland exhibits failed to warn us of the environmental hazards they’d cause or the harmful products they’d create. Neither did their exhibits offer explanations of how they would repeatedly falsify data and bullly our government into approving the use of products with known dangers. Monsanto, whose exhibits promised a better future through chemistry, can now proudly claim among it’s contributions to America, the legacy of Agent Orange, PCB’s, dioxin pollutions, bovine growth hormones and bee colony collapse.
Monsanto has been charged with things ranging from polluting to violations of anti-trust regulations. They have have sued or threatened farmers, as well as those (like The State of Vermont)who call for laws requiring labeling of genetically modified or engineered foods. It isn’t surprising that Monsanto seeks to stifle critics and eliminate their competitors, as they seek control of an ever-larger share of the global agribusiness market, but it is shocking that they do it with the complicit support of our government.
If the government is so committed to food safety or the environment, why do they readily turn a blind eye to the corporate evils of companies like Monsanto? Why does the same government intent on protecting us from the dangers of raw milk and farm-fresh foods, condone the actions of a company with a long history of polluting the environment, endangering the public and tampering with our food?
The government would have us believe they are acting in our best interests, but a government that hampers the ability of a nation to produce its own food or allows a corporation to control the nation’s food supply is not acting in our best interests. Allowing the farming, business and industry, which were once the backbone of our country, to be broken by high costs and endless regulations, doesn’t make any sense, unless our government is working against our interests.
Deb’s Note: Though this post addresses recent events, Monsanto’s foothold in our government precedes the politics of the current presidential administration.