Monday, June 29, 2009

The Food Policy Vacuum

Almost a week ago, Tara Lohan published an interview on Alternet with documentarian Robert Kenner, whose latest project is Food, Inc. While tens of millions of people flocked last weekend to the theaters to see Transformers II, Food, Inc. was also released in theaters on Friday with hardly any fanfare. Indeed, you can be officially and legally classified a nerd if you'd rather sit through a documentary about how our food is processed, packaged and marketed than a CGI-laden sci fi epic about Optimus Prime.

But we don't have to be activists or nerds to want to educate ourselves about what we're putting into our mouths and stomachs, not to mention the very legal jeopardy into which tens of millions of us can place ourselves just in merely exercising our first amendment rights to criticize these food conglomerates and their products. After all, we all have to eat.

It may surprise you to know about the veggie libel laws that are in effect in 13 states. One of the first victims of the veggie libel laws was Oprah Winfrey. Even though Winfrey, one of the most powerful and influential people in the entertainment industry, was eventually vindicated, the very threat of the lawsuit was enough to put her into a state of permanent silence.

One of the many valuable bits of information gleaned from Ms. Lohan's interview with Kenner was that neither the FDA or not USDA have the power to recall food. Jurisdiction over even hamburger that has been proven to kill people seems to depend entirely on whether or not E.coli-tainted meat was a plain hamburger or a cheeseburger (if a cheeseburger, then the FDA claims its hollow jurisdiction because then a dairy product is involved).

In other words, when it comes to recalling tainted or even deadly food, we're actually using the honor system. The individual corporations are in charge of policing themselves. And one suspects, given the irresponsible, bottom line-driven mentality of corporations, for every recall we hear about in the news, there are probably about 100 others that ought to be taking place.

If that seems like an alarmist and flippant number pulled out of thin air, a quick internet search of food giants such as Monsanto and Smithfield Farms and the unimaginable evils they have visited on the entire world will suddenly make that 100 to 1 ratio seem frighteningly plausible.

Kenner is not a food activist but a filmmaker. Yet he tells Tara Lohan that the focus of his documentary Food, Inc. kept changing as he learned more about Big Agro and its legalistic bullying tactics and iron curtain of secrecy that surrounds its products. Under the shady veil of proprietary secrets, corporations such as Monsanto have launched countless hundreds if not thousands of lawsuits against small farmers who have been judged guilty of using patented GMO's, have criticized them publicly or who had merely attempted to differentiate their non-genetically modified product from Monsanto's own tampered product.

Kenner puts his finger right on a point that thus far has hardly even been mentioned in a prominent forum: That the health care debate that's raging on Capitol Hill and from coast to coast really doesn't address one of the core issues that actually underpins such reform, which is food reform.

According to Kenner and the two food experts in Food, Inc., Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), one third of children born after 2000 will develop Adult Onset Diabetes and such diseases have already been conclusively linked to some of the food we're eating. Diabetes is obviously a potentially life-threatening disease and can be very expensive to treat. Alone, it can devastate a health care system already too expensive for nearly 50,000,000 Americans to afford, a managed health care system that's all too eager to deny coverage to even premium payors based on "pre-existing conditions."

Even educated people such as Pollan and Schlosser are content to label the current disconnect from the interests of the US consumer as a mere "policy deficit". Yet the way I see it, it's a policy vacuum in which responsibility has been systematically kept out of the hands of federal regulatory agencies such as the FDA and the USDA and into the grasping hands of multinational corporations such as Monsanto and Smithfield.

As Kenner also states, real food reform and passing much more stringent laws cannot begin until we have transparency and a free flow of information between the government and these corporations and the American consumer. It's a system in which even if one chooses to eat healthy by buying organic, you're penalized for wanting to do so by the outrageous prices charged for it. There are local farm stands, many of them producing affordable organic produce but those of us who eat meat are still ingesting chemically-laden beef, fowl and pork that are produced not on pastoral farms but inhumanly crowded feedlots and killing floors.

At the end of the Lohan interview, Kenner seems almost absurdly optimistic about the inevitability of real food reform. It's absurd when one does a little reading up on the enormous forces that corporations such as Monsanto, Smithfield Farms and others bring to bear in order to silence critics, whistleblowers and those who merely want to educate the public about what they're ingesting.

But Kenner is absolutely right when he says that we cannot even begin to responsibly initiate a dialogue about health care reform until we first begin to make inroads toward one of the underpinning root issues that forms a health care debate, which is what we put into our stomachs.


At June 29, 2009 at 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better living through Chems. Be careful of the seeds that you buy for your garden. Iraq signed to use nothing but seed from them after 4000yrs of keeping seed from last yrs crop for next yr. This has gone on around the world, check India and the farmers story. To sad and soon coming to plant earth.

At June 29, 2009 at 10:33 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

I had. Some years over 1000 Indian cotton farmers committed suicide in a single year because of Monsanto.

At June 30, 2009 at 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smithfield a large food corporation?

At June 30, 2009 at 4:00 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Uh, yeah. You never heard of Smithfield Farms? They practically won the US pork market. I'm amazed they haven't been broken up by the FEC for violating antitrust laws.

At June 30, 2009 at 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

fuck agro-biz food. and fuck anyone who is so stupid as to put agro-biz food into their face-hole. There is no legitimate reason why anyone smart enough to navigate the internet and read a blog should not refrain from ever again frequenting a fast-food restaurant, or buying a Del Monte, Dole, Pillsbury, Kraft or any other comparable product.

It's only food, folks. You eat it. Everyday. Keep it simple. Buy as much as reasonably possible local. Forego fruits and veggies out of season. And tell the Chain grocery stores, and their stepford-patrons waddling up and down the aisles in their slack-jawed somnabulance, to go fuck themselves. They deserve to become what they eat. You do to.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

All Time Classics

  • Our Worse Half: The 25 Most Embarrassing States.
  • The Missing Security Tapes From the World Trade Center.
  • It's a Blunderful Life.
  • The Civil War II
  • Sweet Jesus, I Hate America
  • Top Ten Conservative Books
  • I Am Mr. Ed
  • Glenn Beck: Racist, Hate Monger, Comedian
  • The Ten Worst Music Videos of all Time
  • Assclowns of the Week

  • Links to the first 33 Assclowns of the Week.
  • Links to Assclowns of the Week 38-63.
  • #106: The Turkey Has Landed edition
  • #105: Blame it on Paris or Putin edition
  • #104: Make Racism Great Again Also Labor Day edition
  • #103: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Toilet edition
  • #102: Orange is the New Fat edition
  • #101: Electoral College Dropouts edition
  • #100: Centennial of Silliness edition
  • #99: Dr. Strangehate edition
  • #98: Get Bentghazi edition
  • #97: SNAPping Your Fingers at the Poor edition
  • #96: Treat or Treat, Kiss My Ass edition
  • #95: Monumental Stupidity double-sized edition
  • #94: House of 'Tards edition
  • #93: You Da Bomb! edition.
  • #92: Akin to a Fool edition.
  • #91: Aurora Moronealis edition.
  • #90: Keep Your Gubmint Hands Off My High Pre'mums and Deductibles! edition.
  • #89: Occupy the Catbird Seat/Thanksgiving edition.
  • #88: Heil Hitler edition.
  • #87: Let Sleeping Elephants Lie edition.
  • #86: the Maniacs edition.
  • #85: The Top 50 Assclowns of 2010 edition.
  • #(19)84: Midterm Madness edition.
  • #83: Spill, Baby, Spill! edition.
  • #82: Leave Corporations Alone, They’re People! edition.
  • #81: Hatin' on Haiti edition.
  • #80: Don't Get Your Panties in a Twist edition.
  • #79: Top 50 Assclowns of 2009 edition.
  • #78: Nattering Nabobs of Negativism edition.
  • #77: ...And Justice For Once edition.
  • #76: Reading Tea Leaves/Labor Day edition.
  • #75: Diamond Jubilee/Inaugural Edition
  • #74: Dropping the Crystal Ball Edition
  • #73: The Twelve Assclowns of Christmas Edition
  • #72: Trick or Treat Election Day Edition
  • #71: Grand Theft Autocrats Edition
  • #70: Soulless Corporations and the Politicians Who Love Them Edition
  • Top 10 Things Donald Trump Said to President Obama
  • Paul Ryan's Top Ten Conditions on Running for the Speakership
  • Top 10 Reasons Why Mitt Romney Won't Run for President in 2016
  • Top 10 Results of the NYPD's Work Slowdown
  • Top 10 Secret Service Security Breaches
  • Top 10 LA Radio Shows That Are Rated Higher Than Rush Limbaugh's
  • Top 10 Reasons Operation American Spring Went Flat
  • Top Ten Facts of the MH370 Air Disaster
  • Top 10 Tips for GOP Congressmen Running Against Women
  • Top 10 Signs Walmart's Mistreating its Workers
  • Top 10 Diversions John McCain Found During Syria Hearing
  • Top 10 George Zimmerman Excuses for Speeding.
  • Top 10 Reasons Paula Deen Got Fired by the Food Network
  • Top Ten Ways Pope Francis is Deviating From Convention
  • Top 10 Reasons For the Pope's Resignation
  • Top 10 Emails Hacked From the Bush Family's Email Accounts
  • Top 10 Lies Told by Mitt Romney at the 2nd Debate.
  • Top 10 Examples of How Hard the Campaign Trail is on Ann D. Romney.
  • Top 10 Ways to Tell The Boston Red Sox Are Finished.
  • Top 10 Things Mitt May be Hiding in His Tax Returns.
  • Top 10 Events at the Romney Olympics.
  • Mitt Romney's Top 10 Wild & Crazy Moments.
  • Top Ten Reasons Why Dick Cheney Got a Heart Transplant.
  • Top 10 Facts About Tonight's New England/Denver Game.
  • My Top 10 Resolutions.
  • Top 10 Rejected Slogans of the Romney Campaign.
  • Top 10 Reasons Herman Cain Suspended His Campaign.
  • Top 10 Trending Topics on Twitter During #OWS Eviction.
  • Top 10 Herman Cain Pickup Lines.
  • Top 10 Changes Since Anthony Weiner Decided to Resign.
  • Top 10 Inaccuracies re bin Laden's Death.
  • Top 10 Ways to Prevent a TSA Patdown.
  • Top Ten Things Not to Say When You're Pulled Over.
  • Top 10 Reasons Why Donald Trump Bowed Out of the Presidential Race.
  • Top 10 Ways Evangelicals Will Prepare for the Rapture II.
  • Top 10 Revelations in Today's Parliament Inquiry into News Corp.
  • Top 10 Reasons Why There Was No Vote on the Debt Ceiling Last Night.
  • Top 10 Revelations in Dick Cheney's Upcoming Memoir.
  • Top Ten Ways Americans Will Observe the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
  • Top Ten Advances in Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia.
  • Top Ten Inaccuracies in Bill O'Reilly's Book About Lincoln.
  • Top Ten Suggestions From the Cat Food Commission.
  • Top Ten Worst Moments in George W. Bush's Presidency.
  • Top Ten Facts in George W. Bush's Memoir.
  • Top Ten Reasons Terry Jones Postponed His Koran Burning
  • Top 10 Causes for Dick Cheney's Congestive Heart Failure
  • Top Ten Ways That Jan Brewer Will Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
  • Top Ten Demands in Sarah Palin's Contract
  • Top Ten Whoppers in Karl Rove's New Book
  • Top 10 Items Left Behind in Rush Limbaugh's Apartment
  • Top Ten Things Barack Obama said to Rush Limbaugh in the Hospital
  • Top Ten Bizarre Promos Offered by the New Jersey Nets
  • Top 10 Bush Executive Orders Labor Wants President Obama to Repeal
  • George W. Bush's Top Ten Lesser Achievements
  • Empire Of The Senseless.
  • Conservative Values for an Unsaved World.
  • Esquire's Charles Pierce.
  • Brilliant @ Breakfast.
  • The Burning Platform.
  • The Rant.
  • Mock, Paper, Scissors.
  • James Petras.
  • Towle Road.
  • Avedon's Sideshow (the new site).
  • At Largely, Larisa Alexandrovna's place.
  • The Daily Howler.
  • The DCist.
  • Greg Palast.
  • Jon Swift. RIP, Al.
  • God is For Suckers.
  • The Rude Pundit.
  • Driftglass.
  • Newshounds.
  • William Grigg, a great find.
  • Brad Blog.
  • Down With Tyranny!, Howie Klein's blog.
  • Wayne's World. Party time! Excellent!
  • Busted Knuckles, aka Ornery Bastard.
  • Mills River Progressive.
  • Right Wing Watch.
  • Earthbond Misfit.
  • Anosognosia.
  • Echidne of the Snakes.
  • They Gave Us a Republic.
  • The Gawker.
  • Outtake Online, Emmy-winner Charlotte Robinson's site.
  • Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo
  • No More Mr. Nice Blog.
  • Head On Radio Network, Bob Kincaid.
  • Spocko's Brain.
  • Pandagon.
  • Slackivist.
  • WTF Is It Now?
  • No Blood For Hubris.
  • Lydia Cornell, a very smart and accomplished lady.
  • Roger Ailes (the good one.)
  • BlondeSense.
  • The Smirking Chimp.
  • Hammer of the Blogs.
  • Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.
  • Argville.
  • Existentialist Cowboy.
  • The Progressive.
  • The Nation.
  • Mother Jones.
  • Vanity Fair.
  • Citizens For Legitimate Government.
  • News Finder.
  • Indy Media Center.
  • Lexis News.
  • Military Religious Freedom.
  • McClatchy Newspapers.
  • The New Yorker.
  • Bloggingheads TV, political vlogging.
  • Find, the next-best thing to Nexis.
  • Altweeklies, for the news you won't get just anywhere.
  • The Smirking Chimp
  • Don Emmerich's Peace Blog
  • Wikileaks.
  • The Peoples' Voice.
  • CIA World Fact Book.
  • IP address locator.
  • Tom Tomorrow's hilarious strip.
  • Babelfish, an instant, online translator. I love to translate Ann Coulter's site into German.
  • Newsmeat: Find out who's donating to whom.
  • Wikipedia.
  • Uncyclopedia.
  • Icasualties
  • Free Press
  • YouTube
  • The Bone Bridge.
  • Powered by Blogger