"It is the death of humanity to know the price of everything but the value of nothing." ~Unknown

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nation's Food Policy Pro-Pus, Pro-E. Coli, Pro-Bribery, Pro-GMOs

Nation's Food Policy Pro-Pus, Pro-E. Coli, Pro-Bribery, Pro-GMOs | Sustainable Food |

Nation's Food Policy Pro-Pus, Pro-E. Coli, Pro-Bribery, Pro-GMOs

Published July 10, 2009 @ 05:19PM PT

It sticks its tongue out; by LaenulfeanPractices that were infuriating to me under Republicans have simply become disheartening under Democrats. I will explain.


So Michael Taylor, Monsanto's former lawyer and a fan of adding extra pus to the nation's milk supply by way of giving all our dairy cows chronic mastitis from rBST/rBGH, has indeed been hired to the newly created position of Deputy Commissioner of Food with the Food Safety Working Group at the FDA.

In theory, Taylor might not be as bad as all that, he shilled for rBST as a young, impressionable executive and he seems to have grown as a person.

Though adding insult to injury, Pennsylvania's Dennis Wolff is a finalist for Undersecretary of Food Safety. A willing and enthusiastic participant in Monsanto's campaign to prevent rBST-free labeling on milk, Wolff tried to sneak a 2008 ban on the labels under the noses of Pennsylvania citizens who were outraged and forced the governor to overturn the policy.

But really, two, TWO people appointed or being considered to head food safety in the Obama administration who opposed the public's right to know when their milk came from cows being treated with a hormone that gives them chronically inflamed and infected udders!?

(BTW, people would have heard about the bovine growth hormone controversy more widely as of the year 2000, perhaps, if Monsanto hadn't instigated the firing of two journalists who tried to expose rBST/rBGH for the carcinogenic, bovine mastitis-causing health disaster that it is. Though also, and this is funny, ha-ha, as part of the resolution of the ensuing litigation, a judge ruled that it wasn't illegal for a news station to lie. F*ers!)

So, I think we can safely say that there are those in our national food safety leadership who don't consider pus a worrying contaminant in the milk supply. Even if they don't hire Wolff, that this didn't immediately disqualify him, that they'd consider adding to the shame of hiring Taylor, is a mark of some serious concern.

Pro-E. coli

As reported, again at ObamaFoodorama, this is another of goals of the Obama administration's food policy:

*Reducing the Threat of E. coli O157:H7: The bacterial strain called E. coli O157:H7 causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever in approximately 70,000 Americans each year. In an estimated one in 15 patients, complications arise potentially resulting in intense pain, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and even death. In recent years, this bacterium has caused outbreaks associated with meat and spinach. ...

It goes on like that, very lofty sounding goals framed in descriptions of problems that those interested in food policy are generally familiar with. Here's what they propose to address the E. coli problem: more inspections of slaughter facilities. Here's what would work: stop feeding cows grain and give them hay, or at the very least, feed them hay the few days before slaughter.

Cows' stomachs are supposed to have a near neutral pH of 6.5-7.2, whereas the healthy human gut has an acidic pH that hovers around 2-3. (More about the pH scale.)

The bacteria found in the guts of health cows eating a normal cow diet of high fiber, low starch grass and hay is generally no match for the acidic environment of a human stomach. Our stomach secretions aren't only there to digest our food, but to be the first line of our immune defense.

It's because we have feedlots full of cows suffering permanent acidosis and standing in each other's poop their whole lives that we continue having outbreaks of a bacterial strain that shouldn't stand a chance against our stomach acid.

Does the federal government currently have a plan to reduce the concentration of animals into cruel and revolting factory feedlot farms? No. That would injure Cargill's right to profit,* and it's just not profitable to And in further fact, they're going to continue subsidizing their waste management costs through the existing provisions of the Farm Bill.

In fact, those waste management costs are going to be further subsidized if the ACES/Waxman-Markey climate bill gets passed. Which brings us to the pro-bribery aspect ...


It must sadly be reported that one of my usual favorite Senators, Tom Harkin (D-IA), has promised to do to the Senate climate bill what Rep. Peterson did to the House bill, only moreso. As reported first in Congress Daily:

In a speech to the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Harkin praised Peterson's efforts to win over farm-state members during negotiations on the House energy bill. But Peterson "could only do so much," Harkin said, adding he can add "more allocations and allowances" because every senator has farm and rural constituents.

What do those allowances include? First, the door is wide open to reimburse farmers for chemical no-till, as has been discussed widely in the ag-blogosphere. Which means that Monsanto would be a huge beneficiary as US' farmers' Roundup use becomes eligible for a government kickback. That chemical no-till is only very questionably inclined to improve carbon sequestration in soil is, I'm sure, not going to be a stumbling block.

Second, and more perniciously, they include funding for large-scale biodigesters. I can hear you now, saying, 'But Natasha, whyever could it be problematic to turn cow crap into fuel?' Ha, I thought you might ask that. As I wrote the other day about the existing biodigester and farm waste management subsidies:

... As one policy expert quoted in the article explains, the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) funding might cover up to 75 percent of the waste containment costs for large livestock operations, a routine cost of doing business that smaller ranching concerns have to cover out of their regular operating revenues.

When the 2008 Farm Bill passed, those subsidies were continued (pdf). Compare the cap of $80,000 over 6 years for the support of organic agricultural practices with the $300,000 per 6 year cap for environmental mitigation projects, or the $450,000 per 6 year cap for anaerobic methane biodigesters.

If $450,000 over 6 years sounds like an amount of money that you would only need to spend on methane digestion if you ran an enormous factory feedlot that had as many as 500,000 pigs on a single 'farm', you'd be right. ...

Whatever the final form of ACES, should it pass both houses of Congress, we can be sure that CAFOs, and in turn the meatpacking plants, will end up with even bigger subsidies, in the form of even cheaper Roundup Ready corn feed and even lower waste management costs.

In spite of the fact that the world is burning down around our ears, with egregious costs projected from climate disruption for American agriculture, they'd still like us to pay for the worst practices out of funds allocated for the purpose of protecting the environment, our human habitat.


The Obama administration has stunned the world by promising billions for food security in developing nations, though if the Senate has their way, much of that money will be dedicated to forcing genetically modified seed on them.

I know it makes me a mean, cruel, horrible person and all sorts of bad stuff, woo!, to oppose giving them the blessings of our marvelous genetic crop engineering products, with their technology fees and their high chemical input requirements, and their ridiculously lax safety protocols. But look, they really do not need that crazy expensive rubbish. From the second part of an interview with Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists:

... When farmers begin using the [agroecological] push-pull method, their maize yields typically more than double. Compare that to genetically engineered Bt maize, which also targets stem borers: you might get anywhere from 20-40% yield increases with Bt, but that’s less than half of what you get from push-pull, plus farmers won’t see most of the other benefits. With push-pull you’re also building soil fertility: you don’t have to use a lot of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer because the leguminous cover crop does it naturally, and you have fodder for livestock as well as a corn crop. In general, with this system I’d predict that pest problems will be less than with Bt. No system is perfect, and there are limitations and problems that can arise with the push-pull system, but it shows a lot of promise.

... Knowledge-based agroecological systems have the advantage of being inexpensive. They usually use inputs like leguminous cover crops to add nitrogen to the soil, prevent erosion, and boost organic matter, and they rotate crops from year to year to keep pest levels down. That’s a system based on understanding the biological interactions: you use knowledge rather than having to buy things. ...

Though such an economically practical approach, one that empowers small farmers through knowledge as opposed to making big profits for agribusiness, isn't good enough for the Obama administration and its advisors.

[Obama's Secretary of Agriculture Tom] Vilsack "made this very creative argument on how during the eight years of the Bush administration, the Europeans would lecture us on how we had to bring our citizens along and educate them on the science of climate change. He turned that around and said, 'You know, you've got a similar responsibility on biotech' " [Michael] Michener [of the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service] said.

I'm going to complain to my Senators about this travesty, which would allow companies like Monsanto to push on the world what they've undemocratically pushed on US citizens without our knowledge. Maybe it will even do some good. But still, so, so irritating.


I am so f*ing tired of these f*ing failures of my government to protect the public good. I suppose I shouldn't say that sort of thing, I'm supposed to be encouraging. Though I've never found myself very encouraged by listening to people who refused to admit to unpleasant realities and Washington, DC is extremely bad on these issues in a comitragically bipartisan way.

If anyone knows what could really be done to roll back the corporate-mediated corruption of every instrument of public policy we have, I'm all ears. In the meantime, I'm seriously looking forward to the 10 days I'll be spending in NYC with no laptop this month, because I've just f*ing had it.

* 'But Natasha,' you say, 'corporations don't have a right to profit.' To which I would respond, listen to the Senate debate on healthcare and you will observe that, even if such a thing can be found nowhere in the Constitution or any subsequent statute, many of our Senators do in fact devoutly believe in the existence of a right to profit. Bastiches

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