FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mystery Meat

Salina, Kansas.

The U.S. economy manages to follow the law and label every electronic gadget and stitch of clothing with where it comes from. Manufacturers likewise have no trouble putting a required nutrition list on food packages. But telling where food originates is called too daunting, and whether it was made by means unknown in nature is judged irrelevant.

The rest of the developed world doesn’t see it so, and apparently isn’t as beholden to agribusiness interests as is our government. Americans deserve better. Congress supported the right of consumers to know where their food comes from and included a country-of-origin label requirement back in the 2002 farm bill.

But the Agriculture Department opposed this, favoring a voluntary program, and its economists warned that implementation would cost $1.9 billion.

University of Florida researchers, on the other hand, estimated the price would be 90% below that claim and cost consumers less than one-tenth of a cent per pound of food.

The government then quietly lowered its estimate by two-thirds. But the political damage was done.

Congress postponed implementation.

Meanwhile, the nation’s four biggest meat packers, which process more than 80% of the beef in this country, are quite happy. Without the label requirement, they can continue to import cheaper foreign beef to leverage down the price of American cattle. This imported beef gets an Agriculture Department inspection label when processed here, and is sold to unsuspecting consumers, who assume it is expensive American beef.

Also keeping consumers in the dark, the Food and Drug Administration refuses to require labels on food whose production involves genetic modification.

In 1994, the agency approved commercial use of a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone to increase milk production, and said that no label was needed.

Canada looked at the same test data from the manufacturer, Monsanto, and banned the hormone. So did the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and other industrialized countries. There is concern that the hormone raises human cancer risk. And because cows on the production stimulant are more prone to udder infection, more antibiotics are used. Overuse of antibiotics undermines our pharmaceutical arsenal by encouraging antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

The Agriculture Department reported in 2002 that two million of America’s 9.2 million dairy cows received the hormone, and that larger dairies use it far more than farms with fewer than 100 cows. Given the industry’s mixing of milk from many farms, most U.S. dairy products have milk from injected cows.

The FDA ruled in 1992 that genetically modified food did not differ from other foods in any meaningful way. But there was considerable debate within the FDA over the differences between foods with and without genetic modification. A lawsuit filed by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity prompted the agency to release documents that highlighted the concerns some agency scientists had about biotech foods.

But under this country’s present voluntary system, they remain unlabeled. Polls show that demand for this kind of food is low, and a large majority wants labeling. That could spell market failure, so biotechnology companies and agribusiness giants are opposed.

Without any labeling and separating of genetically modified ingredients, many overseas buyers have rejected corn, soy, canola, and cotton from the United States and Canada. In this country, large natural-food supermarket chains have announced that they will use no genetically modified foods in store brands.

But most processed food in this country contains soy, corn, or both in some form, and 80 percent of soy and 38% of corn commercially grown in the United States is genetically altered.

In a free and open market, transparency is necessary for consumers to know what they are getting. Scientists and nations around the world recognize this. But where and how Americans’ food is raised too often remains hidden. We should enjoy the basic right to know.

PAUL D. JOHNSON, an organic-market gardener and a family-farm legislative advocate for several churches in Kansas, is a member of the Land Institute’s Prairie Writers Circle, in Salina, Kansas.

 

 

More articles by:
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail