Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monsanto Goons, Zombie Money, and Backyard Chickens

Lately I've been following lots of interesting stuff on Food Freedom, from heirlooms vs hybrids for Haiti, to the latest developments in synthetic biology, to the promising movements among consumers and gardeners to reclaim their food sovereignty. But somehow I keep getting drawn back to this article by Rady Ananda, as the author and others take issue with my call for civility. It's perhaps gotten a little out of proportion, given that I don't disagree with the outrage behind the article. Just saying that there needs to be a little more nuance for this to be taken more seriously outside the choir.

Let's face it, anyone who is an insider with the New Democrats is going to take a pro-Monsanto position until it is politically unfavorable to do so. That includes a big chunk of Mr. Obama's staff, cabinet, and departmental bureaucracy. In Monsanto v Geertson Seed, Solicitor General Kagan was doing her job, advocating for the position of APHIS and the whole corrupt federal bureaucracy. She is much less involved than the others cited in the article, such as Michael "revolving-door" Taylor, Monsanto attorney when he's not with the FDA, and cousin-in-law to former VP Al Gore. This will be a non-issue in Kagan's confirmation hearings, and not a battle I choose.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Möbius Politics

Is Local Food a left-wing or right-wing movement?

As I scratch a little below the surface of things, the picture of politics as Möbius strip (that's Moebius if your system is limited to ASCII) becomes ever clearer. In other words, if you wander far enough from the political center, either to the right or to the left, the ends of the spectrum meet in interesting and unexpected ways. It's not a new idea to me, and I wouldn't expect it to be original, but manifestations of this dark side of the political moon have been popping up recently like mushrooms in a cow pasture after a 2-day rainstorm.

Case in point: the Local Food movement. What ties together this motley assortment of foodies and farmers, vegans and beef-eaters, libertarians and progressives, devoutly religious and steadfastly secular? A desire for good food. A sustainable food system. And good old American distrust.

Friday, May 7, 2010

E. coli strikes again

This time it's a different strain, E. coli O145, and the contaminated food appears to be romaine lettuce from a processing plant in Ohio, potentially affecting consumers in 24 states. The processor, Freshway Foods of Sidney, has voluntarily recalled romaine products with a "use by" date of May 12 or earlier.

I may be having a change of heart. I think maybe the ban on interstate sale of raw milk is working. How else do you explain the facts? Out of all the E. coli outbreaks reported by the CDC in the last 3.5 years, none are associated with raw milk. Instead all the outbreaks are associated with beef, produce, frozen pizza, or frozen cookie dough. All involve regionally or nationally distributed packaged foods. None involve foods sold directly by farmers to consumers.

So let's not stop with raw milk. Now it's time for Congress to step up and ban interstate sales of all packaged food unless it has been fully cooked, irradiated, and bathed in bleach. Give the FDA sweeping authority to seize the tractor-trailer loads of lettuce and ground beef that traverse our nation's highways every second. Because they have the potential of being contaminated. And because it should be the FDA, not the consumer, who decides what is an acceptable risk.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Letter to the FDA

May 4th 2010

John F. Sheehan, Director
Div. of Plant and Dairy Food
Office of Food Safety
Bldg. CPK-1, Rm. 3D-055
5100 Paint Branch
College Park, MD 20740

Dear Mr. Sheehan

I am writing in regards to the investigation of Mr. Daniel Allgyer of Kinzers, PA on allegations of interstate commerce of raw milk. I wish to express my disappointment that the FDA is pursuing this case when there are so many greater threats to public health.

Many of the greatest threats are due to large-scale industrial agriculture, centralized food production and distribution, inadequate testing of new food and pharmaceuticals, and inadequate inspection and enforcement. A few examples: contamination of the food supply with novel substances and organisms, air and water pollution, and loss of ecological and agricultural diversity.

Small, traditional operations like Mr. Allgyer's are part of a robust, diverse, and sustainable agricultural community. The main threats they pose are to those who seek to control and monopolize the food supply.