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Posts Tagged ‘farming’

Ill From Food? Investigations Vary by State

Posted by kelliasworld on April 20, 2009

New York Times Original Content
April 20, 2009

By GARDINER HARRIS

In just about every major contaminated food scare, Minnesotans become sick by the dozens while few people in Kentucky and other states are counted among the ill.

Contaminated peanuts? Forty-two Minnesotans were reported sick compared with three Kentuckians. Jalapeño peppers last year? Thirty-one in Minnesota and two in Kentucky became ill. The different numbers arise because health officials in Kentucky and many other states fail to investigate many complaints of food-related sickness while those in Minnesota do so diligently, safeguarding not only Minnesotans but much of the rest of the country, as well.

Congress and the Obama administration have said that more inspections and new food production rules are needed to prevent food-related diseases, but far less attention has been paid to fixing the fractured system by which officials detect and stop ongoing outbreaks. Right now, uncovering which foods have been contaminated is left to a patchwork of more than 3,000 federal, state and local health departments that are, for the most part, poorly financed, poorly trained and disconnected, officials said.

The importance of a few epidemiologists in Minnesota demonstrates the problem. If not for the Minnesota Department of Health, the Peanut Corporation of America might still be selling salmonella-laced peanuts, Dole might still be selling contaminated lettuce, and ConAgra might still be selling dangerous Banquet brand pot pies — sickening hundreds or thousands more people.

In these and other cases, epidemiologists from Minnesota pinpointed the causes of food scares while officials in other states were barely aware that their residents were getting sick. From 1990 to 2006, Minnesota health officials uncovered 548 food-related illness outbreaks, while those in Kentucky found 18, according to an analysis of health records.

The surveillance system is vital because even with reforms intended to prevent outbreaks, food-related disease will remain among the most common sources of illness. One-quarter of the nation’s population is sickened every year by contaminated food, 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die, and decades of steady improvements in the safety of the nation’s food supply have ended in recent years.

“The longer it takes you to nail an outbreak, the more people are going to get sick,” said Dr. David Acheson, associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration. “And if it’s a pathogen that causes death, the more people are going to die.”

With states cutting back in the face of budget crises, disease surveillance is worsening, several officials said.

“Just $50 million spread over the entire country would make a huge difference,” said Dr. Timothy Jones, the state epidemiologist in Tennessee.

Take the case of Lauren Threlkeld, who went to a Kroger grocery store in Lexington, Ky., in August 2007 and bought a bag of Dole baby spinach contaminated with E. coli O157. She became violently ill with bloody diarrhea and was hospitalized for nearly a week.

When Ms. Threlkeld finally went home to recuperate in Madisonville, Ky., a county health worker called only to verify that she had fallen ill in another county. No one asked about the foods she had eaten or what might have made her so ill, she said. Later efforts by her lawyer pinpointed the source of her illness — far too late to help others avoid similar fates.

Dr. William D. Hacker, the public health commissioner in Kentucky, blamed tight budgets. “We have had a historically poor record of reporting” food-borne illnesses, Dr. Hacker said. “We are working hard to change our culture even with limited resources.”

In Minnesota and a few other states, victims of food-related illnesses tell very different stories. Sarah Kirchner of Belle Plaine, Minn., said health workers called her three separate times and spent hours discussing her children’s diet almost immediately after a laboratory test verified that one had fallen ill with salmonella. Officials in Minnesota traced the outbreak to peanut butter in part because of Ms. Kirchner’s responses.

“There is no question that some states take this far more seriously than others,” Dr. Acheson said.

Even when county and state health departments investigate, their methods often differ so greatly that federal officials have difficulty uncovering patterns. This leads to terrible delays.

“Everybody does things differently, even within many states,” Dr. Acheson said. “It’s a huge challenge.”

Some delay is inevitable. Most people sickened by food do not bother to see a doctor. Many of those who do are not asked to provide a stool sample, and when asked, some refuse.

When patients are willing, laboratories may not be. In Utah, for instance, only 18 of the state’s 1,388 medical laboratories process stool tests, said Dr. Pat Luedtke, director of the Utah public health laboratory. Well-meaning doctors who wish to send stool samples sometimes must pay the postage because insurers often refuse to pay for a test that largely serves a public health function; many doctors do not bother.

By the time public health officials notice that a growing number of such samples carry the same genetic fingerprint — a clear sign that a popular food is contaminated — weeks have passed. By then, victims’ memories of what they ate have faded. So rapid and thorough responses by health officials, a rarity in many states, are crucial.

“I’ve learned in the last few months that the real secret to our success is that we have urgency,” said Dr. Kirk Smith, supervisor of the food-borne diseases unit for the Minnesota Department of Health.

Dr. Acheson of the F.D.A. said federal authorities had been meeting with state health officials to seek ways to improve the surveillance system, including standardizing menu questionnaires and improving response times. But he said more federal financing was crucial.

Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of food-borne diseases, said the agency planned immediate investments “to increase the capacity of several health departments.”

Ruth Ann Merrick of Somerset, Ky., said she was still bitter about how her case was handled. She went with friends to a local Chinese restaurant on June 26, 2004. Within 45 minutes, she was vomiting so violently that she passed out and her heart stopped. After her husband performed C.P.R., she was taken to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, where she remained in intensive care for four days.

Although four of the eight people in her party were sickened, the state never investigated, she said.

“I thought I was going to die,” Ms. Merrick said.
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Food safety is one of those situations where the Federal government needs to set standards that represent the floor of protection, so that everyone, regardless of where they live, gets a certain level of investigation, transparency and protection. But then the states should be able to provide an even higher standard if they wish. Think that is too much of a problem for the multi-state food distributor? Not if the distributor fulfills the highest standard instead of the lowest. — K.R.

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Posted in America, Economics, Food | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Feigned Indignation: Of marauding exploiters, their “ethical qualms,” and a new proposal

Posted by kelliasworld on April 13, 2009

By Jason Miller

3/15/09

Since there was little appetite for my recent polemic in which I advocated including necro-cannibalism as an integral part of our strategy to combat ecocide and world hunger, because very few appeared to take note of the fact that it was not my intention to carefully craft an update of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” (I was actually hurling a hunk of concrete into the placid waters of the indoctrinated readers’ minds in order to observe the resultant splash and subsequent ripples), and since despite the depth of Homo rapien moral depravity and their sheer indifference to the suffering, murder, mayhem, and destruction that the human collective causes in order to satiate our desires and perpetuate the disease we call civilization, reader response indicated that the thought of eating our “fellow man” was taking things a bit too far, I’m advancing yet another potential solution to the myriad and complex maladies we’ve inflicted upon nonhuman animals, the Earth and ourselves.

Homo rapiens, who, judging by the state of the world, outnumber Homo sapiens by a wide margin, are a self-centered, mean-spirited bunch. Maybe their swarming hordes can get behind an idea that saves their asses, eases what little conscience they have, requires little or no risk or effort on their part, and doesn’t involve the possibility of their cherished grandmas winding up as hotdogs rather than worm fodder or cinders.

As an aside, had I written my apologia for necro-cannibalism as a serious assertion, what pray tell would have been so ghastly, macabre, reprehensible, or unthinkable about it? It’s not like we would be committing homicide. The people we would be eating would have died prior to being slated to appear on the menu at McDonald’s. Some amongst us directly perpetrate (and many of the rest of the rest of us openly or tacitly support) the murder of billions of sentient beings (including “universally sacred” human animals) each year in factory “farms,” laboratories, and in faraway lands inhabited by the uninitiated whom we must bomb into the stone age that they might become enlightened enough to embrace the American Way of Life.

What an arbitrary, skewed, hypocritical and bizarre set of ethics and priorities we have. The Earth is teeming with 6.5 billion people who are stripping it bare like a plague of locusts, food shortages are reaching crisis levels, and the Homo rapiens are going to balk at the source of the flesh they so love to devour? Though they may represent the next stage in hominid evolution (on the other hand, one could advance a strong argument that they represent a de-evolution), they need to get over themselves. Or they won’t have any selves left to get over.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist tossing another chunk of cement and muddying those placid waters once more. As a critical thinker who has stopped drowning out my inner voice with Western civilization’s ubiquitous and numerous forms of anesthetizing, conscience-killing soma, I have my eyes wide open to the constant barrage of inanities, perversities, hypocrisies, deceptions, distortions, and insanities with which our barbaric “civilized” culture perpetually pelts us. As my beloved Sylvia often says about the Homo rapiens she encounters each day, “If they come at me crazy, I’m getting crazy right back.” So let’s talk cannibalism a bit more.

Moral and ethical objections to necro-cannibalism are hollow and pathetically feeble when voiced by the savage mob of our collective “advanced, industrialized civilization” that preys economically upon “developing nations;” subjugates hundreds of millions of people through the use of puppet plutocracies, neo-liberal economic policies, military bases installed for “protection,” or outright imperial invasion; gluttonously gobbles up far more than its share of the world’s “natural resources”—eating them and shitting them out or running them through atmosphere-toxifying factories that create more “things” that will quickly become a part of the breathtakingly enormous mountain of garbage through which we will eventually be wading; drops smart bombs (now there’s an oxymoron for you) that only kill the “bad guys”–plus a few hundred “victims of collateral damage;” tortures and murders millions of nonhuman animals every day to yield a plethora of unnecessary products; ends millions of lives before they get started through abortions; locks up nonviolent substance abusers because of their skin color and economic class whilst letting mass murderers like Bush and Cheney run free; leaves billions to live in miserable squalor to enable the American Dream for a relative few; and more. Yet in the midst of an ecocrisis in which industrial agriculture plays a large role, we’re going to keep downing “pork,” “beef,” and “poultry” by the shovel full and get squeamish about stabbing our fork into a morsel of nourishing human flesh that would otherwise go to waste? How about a steaming plate of self-centeredness and an ice cold glass of hypocrisy to wash that down?

My apologies; again I digress. Forget cannibalism. As my “friends” who grease the gears of capitalism would say, “There’s no market for it!” Unlike our imperialistic, war-mongering government (which is merely a reflection of our Homo rapien society), those who are fighting for the Earth obviously don’t have the luxury of keeping “all options on the table.”

I’ll skip moralizing about the abject cruelty of exploiting nonhuman animals to consume their flesh because I recognize that Homo rapiens are too selfish to give up their beloved “meat,” despite the fact that many give lip service to ending the horrors of factory “farming” in favor of “happy meat.” So as my dear “compatriots,” the capitalists, love to say, “I’ll give you the bottom line here.” The bottom line is that the extant system of factory “farming” is an environmental disaster and a tremendous waste of resources.

You can Google the statistics if you prefer more specificity, but for those flesh addicts who are comfortable with the savagery of nonhuman animal consumption, there are two compelling pragmatic reasons to find an alternative “meat” source: pollution and “resource” depletion.

The billions of nonhuman animals destined to wind up on plates or between slices of bread produce seas of urine and excrement. For now Tyson, Smithfield Farms and their ilk pump this waste into storage lagoons, which are filled with this putrid slurry of piss and shit mixed with a host of other waste products, including antibiotics, pesticides, the rotting corpses of nonhuman animals crushed or trampled to death, afterbirth, and stillborns.

What the hell are we going to do with all of that infectious, repugnant sludge as time progresses? Perhaps we could simply do what the billions of sentient beings we’ve oppressed and exploited to sustain our American Way of Life (the soul-sucking, murderous machine we call Western civilization) would love to see us do and “eat shit and die.” No, that’s too drastic. We, as a collective, have done some pretty rotten things and our system’s got to go, but there’s plenty of room for personal redemption on a case by case basis—for most of us any way. So, the question remains, what are we going to do with vast seas of poisonous sewage that threaten to contaminate groundwater, streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes?

Pollution aside, we have another problem that is perhaps even bigger. It takes 16 pounds of grain and 2500 gallons of water to make one pound of “beef.” The global demand for “meat” is skyrocketing as populous nations like China and India aspire to the “heights” of American capitalism and clamor for body parts on their menus. One third of the global population is starving, mostly in “developing” nations, so that the “deserving” citizens of wealthier nations can gorge themselves on flesh. I realize that I’ve wasted a sentence on another of those idiotic moral concerns which Homo rapiens have rationalized away or are just too fucking mean to care about, so let me instead point out that world-wide demand for “meat” is projected to double by 2050 and that our industrial agricultural system is already incapable of providing food for a rapidly growing population of 6.5 billion humans. Therefore, there’s a strong chance that you and your children, dear reader, could be affected—very adversely I might add. (That’s how you get the attention of a Homo rapien—you inform them of something that’s going to directly impact THEM and “theirs.”)

Our current form of “meat” production is rife with irresolvable problems, vegans/vegetarians are still about as rare as recent stock market success stories, and the number of people demanding to feast upon rotting flesh is rising meteorically. A head-scratching, hair pulling dilemma if ever I encountered one.

Eliminating “meat” from our collective diet is a non-starter. Necro-cannibalism went over like reruns of the Lawrence Welk show on MTV. Lowering demand by voluntarily decreasing consumption would be impossible given our “all about me,” “individual freedom with no responsibility to the group” ethos. Appeals to conscience, you say? No, I tried that and most people just laughed and stuffed their mouths with another hunk of rotting animal flesh.

Therefore, we can once again look to the holy trinity of science, technology, and capitalism for our salvation. Interspecies chimeras, laboratory-created genetic crosses between two unique animal species, can rain “meat” down upon us like manna from heaven. Since 2003, researchers have successfully formed chimeric embryos by fusing human animals with three different nonhuman animals: rabbits, sheep, and cows.

We’ve struck gold. Now all we need to do is to start mining. With our scientific knowledge, technological infrastructure, and immense wealth, we could create and distribute chimeras for mass consumption within a couple of years. After all, “product” design and commodification are our specialties in this capitalist society. Replacing “farm animals” with chimeras as our source of “meat” would not be that difficult.

Big Meat could finish butchering the remaining stock of domestic nonhuman animals and make preparations to start slaughtering chimeras and distributing their flesh and body parts for consumption. Marketing this new product could be a problem initially, but the Bernays protégés on Madison Avenue could sell ‘morning after’ pills to members of the Army of God, so no worries there.

Rabbit, lamb, and cow are tastes with which many “meat” eaters are already familiar. Geneticists could most certainly bring pigs into the fold as well. Perhaps they could even engineer an egg-laying chimeric chicken.

Imagine the myriad advantages of fusing human DNA into our chimeras. Once we got the Medical Industrial Complex coordinating with Big Meat and Big Food, we could develop massive breeding and housing facilities for these artificial beings and start cranking them out like autos rolling off an assembly line.

Once weaned from their mothers, the exceptional female stock could be retained, nurtured and reared to serve as birthing machines. Genetically limiting their intellect so that they could perform simple tasks and engage in manual labor (without the capacity to think critically), would enable us to employ a skeleton crew of people to oversee immense chimeric laboratory farms, as these production facilities could be staffed primarily by chimeras.

Chimeras would be the perfect “meat” source. With their opposable thumbs and limited ability to cogitate, the sanitation problems related to factory “farming” would be largely eliminated as the chimeras could use toilets and clean up after themselves. Chimeras would virtually eliminate a corporation’s biggest expense: employees. They could tend to themselves and the facilities that manufacture them with limited human oversight. Once they were transported to the slaughter-houses currently processing cows, pigs and the like, they could be processed in a similar fashion. With IQ’s hovering around 80, passivity would be a virtual given as they queued up to have their skulls bashed in with sledgehammers, and for the unlucky ones who survived the bludgeoning, to be gutted alive with razor sharp knives.

Aside from the breeding stock, laboratory farm staff, and those we ground into chimera burgers, we could exploit the remaining “things with a pulse” in any way we saw fit. Corporations operating laboratory farms could garner immense income streams from both “meat” production and from the sale of chimeras as slaves. Since these Petri-dish concocted beings couldn’t possibly have a soul and would be synthetic creatures, our chimeras would not be endowed with human rights nor protected by animal welfare laws. Homo rapien capitalists would be living larger than a pedophile on a deserted isle full of 12 year old virgins! No extant ethics, morals, laws, or social taboos would impede commerce, progress, profit, advantage, pleasure, or fulfillment derived from said beings.

Chimeras would eliminate the need for nonhuman animal vivisection. With human DNA woven into their genetic structure, their value and reliability as test subjects would be far superior to that of nonhuman animals. We could even conduct the tests in the same laboratories that produce them.

Imagine owning a chimera. It would be like having a cow that could mow your lawn, do your laundry, wash your dishes, and even, if you could get past their odd physical appearance, satisfy you sexually. When you came home from a rough day at the office, instead of kicking the cat or yelling at the kids, you could beat the chimera. And when your stock of “meat” in the freezer started running low, you could simply run your chimera down to the nearest butcher, have it stunned, bled, gutted, cleaved, hacked, and sliced, and scurry home with a car-load of neat little packages of mouth-watering rotting flesh.

Obviously, chimeras would be a “must have.” Clean, “green,” essentially self-perpetuating, and highly coveted by all, chimeras would be capitalism’s crowning achievement. Our environmental nightmare would be mitigated, world hunger would disappear, and everyone could own at least one chimera to afford them more leisure time and ensure they’d be able to gorge themselves on “meat.”

Now don’t tell me that faux ethical concerns are going to hold us back on this one. Remember, we’re the group that’s collectively gang raping Mother Earth and sodomizing her to death. Don’t proclaim to me, dear Homo rapiens, that you don’t want to have your “meat” and eat it too; to strengthen the illusion of “safe food, medicine, and consumer products” provided by vivisection; and to possess your very own personal slave. And don’t try to convince me that a society of marauding exploiters has “ethical qualms” about artificially creating beings that would satisfy these “needs” while at the same time helping to slow or end the impending ecological collapse we’re causing.

Don’t talk crazy to me, and as Sylvia would also say, “Don’t front!”

Jason Miller is a relentless anti-capitalist, vegan straight edge, and animal liberationist. He is also the senior editor and founder of Thomas Paine’s Corner and the blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute.

Thomas Paine’s Corner wants to periodically email you links to the most recent material and timeless classics available on our diverse and comprehensive site. If you would like to receive them, type “TPC subscription” in the subject line and send your email to willpowerful@hotmail.com

To further your sociopolitical education, strengthen your connection with the radical community, and deepen your participation in forming an egalitarian, just, ecological, non-speciesist and democratic society, visit the Transformative Studies Institute at http://transformativestudies.org/ and the Institute for Critical Animal Studies at http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/.
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I’m a dedicated carnivore. In fact, I have some chicken legs boiling in a pot as I write this. I have been diagnosed as diabetic and have found out from several sources that a protein breakfast helps keep the blood sugar under control all day. (I do not take insulin). Besides, I like chicken.

Nevertheless, I deplore the way our farm animals are treated. I buy free-range chicken, cage-free eggs, yogurt made from milk from cows that haven’t been shot up with growth hormones, etc. Fortunately, I have easy access to such products, albeit at a premium. My food budget has sky-rocketed since I made the switch. Sorry to say my income has not increased proportionally.

That the poor have to suffer with garbage as food while our food animals are mistreated are both results of the capitalist factory farm system that cares only about profits and not product quality for the humans and humane treatment for the animals. We see this all in non-meat food production, To wit: the recent salmonella outbreaks in peanuts and pistachios. –K.R.

Posted in Animal Welfare, Economics, Environment, Food | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

More info about H.R. 875 – ‘Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009’

Posted by kelliasworld on March 26, 2009

Since my readers have shown great interest in this bill, here are a few more sources of information.

Read the bill through the Thomas resource of the Library of Congress.

Download a PDF of H.R. 875.

It is a long bill. Here are some tips on what to look for if you don’t have time to read it all. This article also suggests actions you can take.

Find out how to contact your representative at House.gov

BTW, in the Senate, it is called S. 425. Check the status of the Senate bill on Thomas.

Posted in America, Environment, Food | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

John Kinsman: Nation’s Food System Nearly Broke

Posted by kelliasworld on March 3, 2009

OpEdNews
Original Content

March 3, 2009

By John Kinsman

As our government enacts a stimulus package and President Barack Obama announces bold initiatives to stem home mortgage foreclosures, disaster threatens family farmers and their communities.

The government’s response to plummeting commodity prices and tightening credit markets leads to the basic question: Who will produce our food? This is a worldwide crisis. U.S. policy and the demand for deregulation at all levels–from food production to financial markets–contribute greatly to the global collapse.

The solution must be grounded in food sovereignty so that all farmers and their communities can regain control over their food supply. This response makes sense here in Wisconsin and was the global message from the 500+ farmer leaders at the Via Campesina conference in Mozambique in October.

Many U.S. farmers are going out of business because they receive prices equal to about one half their cost to produce our food. How long could any enterprise receiving half the amount of its input costs stay in business? As an example, dairy farmers in the Northeast and Midwest must be paid between 30 and 35 cents per pound for their milk to pay production costs and provide basic living expenses.

Until 1980, farmers received a price equal to 80 percent of parity, meaning that farmers’ purchasing power kept up with the rest of the economy. Unfortunately, a 1981 political decision discontinued parity, and today the dairy farmers’ share is below 40 percent.

“Free trade” and other regressive agricultural policies have decimated farms. We are now a food deficit nation dependent on food imports, often of questionable quality.

Our food system is nearly broke, which is almost as serious as our country’s financial meltdown. With fair farm policies, farmers would get fair prices that would not require higher consumers prices. The Canadian dairy pricing system is the best example that proves fair farmer prices can and often do bring lower consumer prices and a healthier rural economy. In addition, excessive middleman profits are taking advantage of both consumers and producers.

As more farmers face bankruptcy, we all face a food emergency. European farmers speak from thousands of years of experience on the importance of family farms when they warn us, “Any time a country neglects its family farm base and allows it to become financially bankrupt, the entire economy of that country will soon collapse. It may take generations to rebuild the farm economy and that of the country.”

Despite the magnitude of this food emergency, the “farm crisis” does not appear in headlines, so politicians are not compelled to provide political or financial assistance to something that would likely fail to bring votes. As farmers, we are now only about 1 percent of the U.S. population, and have little power to expose and prevent our demise. However, our urban and rural friends could be vital voices and advocates.

Bailing out the financial giants will not solve the financial crisis in the country, but the right policies and stimulus dollars could prevent a severe food crisis by saving farmers and workers. Furthermore, farm income dollars remain in and multiply at least two to four times in the local economy.

Family farmers have proposed fair food and farm policies that can be implemented at a fraction of the present multibillion-dollar policies destroying us. As the Treasury Department develops plans to distribute the bailout funds, the National Family Farm Coalition and others urge it to require banks receiving funds to treat their borrowers fairly by providing debt restructuring as an alternate to home or farm foreclosure or bankruptcy.

Concerned citizens can call the White House, 202-456-1111, or your members of Congress, 202-224-3121, to urge them to support policies that enable farmers to earn a fair market price; request an emergency milk price at $17.50 per hundred weight; provide price stability through government grain reserves and effective supply management; support the TRADE Act to be reintroduced in Congress; increase direct and guaranteed loans to family farmers; and ensure that the food we raise can be marketed to local schools and institutions, providing a better food supply at a fair price. We need these immediate changes in our food and farm policy.

John Kinsman, a dairy farmer from La Valle, is president of Family Farm Defenders, based in Madison.
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Yes, We need family farms, not agribusinesses like Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland and the rest of the industry that wants to eliminate organic farming, drive small farmers off the land worldwide, and make us all eat chemicals instead of real food. President Obama has promised to end subsidies to agribusiness. Let’s help him make good on that promise. Demand that your Senators and Representative vote against agribusiness subsidies and for family farms!–K.R.

Posted in America, Economics, Food | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »