Milking the corporate cow

Posted Nov. 26, 2010, at 8:07 p.m.
300 dpi 3 col x 7.75 in / 146x197 mm / 497x670 pixels Chris Ware color illustration of a frowning farmer and cow floating in a milk bottle in a giant pail of milk. Lexington Herald Leader 2003

With MILKMAKEOVER:DE, Knight Ridder by Sylvia Rector

KEYWORDS: krtbusiness business krtnational national krtfeatures krtfood food krtnutrition nutrition features krtfood food krtusbusiness u.s. us united states illustration cow vaca milk farmer comida cultivo environment farm farming de ware milkmakeover makeover contributed dairy 2003 krt2003 agriculture
Chris Ware KRT
300 dpi 3 col x 7.75 in / 146x197 mm / 497x670 pixels Chris Ware color illustration of a frowning farmer and cow floating in a milk bottle in a giant pail of milk. Lexington Herald Leader 2003 With MILKMAKEOVER:DE, Knight Ridder by Sylvia Rector

KEYWORDS: krtbusiness business krtnational national krtfeatures krtfood food krtnutrition nutrition features krtfood food krtusbusiness u.s. us united states illustration cow vaca milk farmer comida cultivo environment farm farming de ware milkmakeover makeover contributed dairy 2003 krt2003 agriculture

A recent BDN article by Dr. Stephen Sears probably left readers wondering why it was relevant and what they should do about the deadly toxin raw milk. It might surprise the majority of Mainers that the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have been spending lots of our tax dollars raiding small farms, sending FBI agents into stores with guns drawn, misleading consumers, shutting down family cheese artisans and issuing cease and desist orders to family farms (in Maine) that sell milk to their neighbors.

After Dr. Sears’ (Maine’s state epidemiologist) article, you’re probably breathing easy knowing these agencies are fighting such terrible threats as raw milk. Indeed, as the doctor wrote, according to the CDC, raw milk has been responsible for two deaths in the United States since 1998.

Obviously, Dr. Sears simply stated numbers from agency press releases and e-mails rather than actually looking at the Foodborne Outbreak Online Database. There, he would have found that, indeed, in the decade between 1998 and 2008, in a country now home to a population of more than 300 million, raw milk caused two deaths. What he neglected to mention regarding “public health” was that in 2007, in Massachusetts alone, there were three deaths from pasteurized milk.

How could Dr. Sears miss this information when he is so concerned about public health? Presumably, the same way he could quote an oft-stated CDC figure of 1,614 reported illnesses from raw milk. Why the CDC uses this figure is unbeknownst to the population, since its own data reveals 1,254 reported illnesses for the decade in question.

So what is going on here?

This is part of a nationwide campaign to take away your right to eat and feed your children healthy, real food. Sound like a conspiracy theory? Don’t take my word for it. Take the FDA’s. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund recently sued the FDA because its ban on interstate sales of raw milk is unconstitutional. In the motion to dismiss, the FDA stated the following: “There is no right to consume or feed children any particular food. There is no generalized right to bodily and physical health.”

Scared? It gets worse. Read the entire brief at ftcldf.org.

Raw milk is simply the current, easy target. The reasons are that raw milk consumption does exist but certainly is not common in Maine. The farmers who tend to sell raw milk are not “dairy operators” but small, diversified family farmers. The farmer who provides my raw milk milks just two cows by hand. These people cannot afford to fight the legal battles required to combat the government.

But raw milk is just one battle. S510, the “food safety” bill, will change the local food landscape at just the time when a critical mass of people is waking up to the horrors of the current food system.

Set aside the poisons, runoff and torture of animals, workers and families if you can. Just look at actual public health issues. Where are food-borne illnesses produced? They’re generated by huge, globalized agribusiness processors from eggs to spinach to peanut butter. Not from the small family farms providing a safe alternative, despite Dr. Sears’ barely veiled claims to the contrary.

Hundreds of thousands of people are suddenly realizing that the industrial food system with which they live is the Titanic. Now that a growing number of people are looking for lifeboats, the people steering the ship are worried. You can dismiss this as conspiracy theory if you want. If so, I wish you luck. But if I were you, I would search MOFGA.org or Google and find some local farmers and artisans who can provide what you need and establish a relationship, because things are going to get interesting soon.

Consider the food supply of the Soviet Union just before it collapsed or France before its revolution. Food is an important tool of social control, and the tool is getting away from its operators. They are trying desperately to rein it in; thus the statements by government agency doctors in the court of public opinion. I wonder what the doctors and federal agents are going to eat when salmonella and e-coli from the system are all that’s on offer.

Ryan Parker is a former staff member of the United States House of Representatives. Currently, he runs a diversified, beyond organic, small family farm in Newport and writes in Winterport.

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