FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Agriculture’s Bullied Market

by JIM FRENCH

The dominant myth about democracy in the United States is that all sides may air points of view, and that through debate truth and justice will win out over power. But under the present regime, it seems the might of capital makes right.

Take the example of Creekstone Farms, a small meat processor that markets high-quality beef here and abroad.

In a move to restore beef sales to Japan that were lost after a U.S. animal with mad cow disease was identified last December, Creekstone requested the right to test all its cattle before slaughter. But after an outcry from U.S. Premium Beef, one of the four major beef packers, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Agriculture Department announced it would continue to ban the comprehensive testing proposed by Creekstone.

The major packers argue that testing every animal would be unreasonably expensive and could give too many false-positive results, hurting the market for U.S. beef. The Agriculture Department asserts that the international scientific consensus is that “100 percent testing is not justified.”

The decision is hypocrisy for an agency that claims to promote sales of U.S. farm products. Creekstone is not demanding 100 percent testing of all U.S. beef. It only wants the right to test its own beef so it can sell to an established market in Japan using a standard higher than the minimum.

All it takes is some muscle flexing by the major packers, and independent producers are pushed out of a lucrative market.

The story echoes a previous experience. Europe does not allow meat from cattle given growth hormones, which are widely used in U.S. feedlots. When several states, including Texas and Minnesota, sought in the late 1980s to sell hormone-free beef to Europe, the Agriculture Department stopped them, saying this would call into question the safety and quality of American beef grown with hormones.

In both cases the effect for producers is the same. U.S. beef sales have not suffered from embargoes as much as they have from domestic prohibitions that serve the convenience and profits of the large corporations that market commodities and sell supplies to producers.

Beef producers aren’t the only ones pushed around by corporate might. Consider the case of genetically engineered wheat being developed by Monsanto. In survey after survey of both Canadian and U.S. producers, there is significant resistance to release of this herbicide-resistant crop. Europe and other export markets have said they will shun its import, just as they have restricted genetically modified corn and soybeans. And yet Monsanto, which earlier had sought both U.S. and Canadian approval, plows ahead to release the seed in America regardless of whether Canada approves.

In all of these cases we must question how the mantra of “sound science” is used to quash objections. Opponents of genetic manipulation, antibiotics in feed, hormones to boost milk production or cattle growth, and synthetic pesticides are often accused of being anti-science. But more often it seems money and corporate power dictate the technologies that dominate our food system, not impartial science.

In the past year, Americans have witnessed a massive campaign against country-of-origin labeling to protect large packers who indiscriminately blend imported and domestic ground beef. Now we behold rejection of the kind of cattle testing done in Japan and Europe because we don’t want to risk false-positive results or raise production costs. Japan tests all cattle, and Europe tests all animals older than 30 months.

It is time to recognize that the worship of profits over public safety and the common good should not dominate policy. Our nation insists on strict separation of church and state. We should likewise demand a clear separation between Big Food and the government, which is supposed to protect our health and environment — and our free marketplace.

JIM FRENCH, communications specialist for the Kansas Rural Center, farms and ranches in south-central Kansas. He wrote this essay for the Land Institute’s Prairie Writers Circle, Salina, Kan.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
Rob Urie
Meet the Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
The Russian Dossier Reminds Me of the Row Over Saddam’s WMDs
Eric Sommer
U.S.-China War: a Danger Hidden from the American People
Andrew Levine
Are Democrats Still the Lesser Evil?
Linda Pentz Gunter
What’s Really Behind the Indian Point Nuclear Deal?
Robert Fantina
Trucks, ‘Terror’ and Israel
Richard Moser
Universal Values are Revolutionary Values
Russell Mokhiber
Build the Bagdikian Wall: “Sponsored News” at the Washington Post
Yoav Litvin
Establishment Narcissism – The Democrats’ Game of Thrones
David Rosen
Return of the Repressed: Trump & the Revival of the Culture Wars
Robert Koehler
War Consciousness and the F-35
Rev. William Alberts
The New Smell of McCarthyism Demands Faith Leaders Speak Truth to Power
John Laforge
Federal Regulator Halts Move to Toughen Radiation Exposure Limits
Norman Pollack
Farewell Address: Nazification of Hope
David Swanson
Imagine the Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Peace
CJ Hopkins
Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works
Ron Jacobs
Striking in Reagan Time
Missy Comley Beattie
The Streep
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: The Potential Impacts of Collective Inaction
Uri Avnery
Confessions of a Megalomaniac
Kenneth Worles
Black Without a Home: King’s Dream Still Deferred
Geoff Dutton
The Russian Patsy
Jill Richardson
The Coming War on Regulations
Jeremy Brecher
Resisting the Trump Agenda is Social Self-Defense
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail