“Milk marketing board an albatross” — Michael Schmidt in press reports

Michael Schmidt and Sean McGivern at Queens Park press conference Nov 18, 2008. Click on picture to go to Sun Media video.

Michael Schmidt and Sean McGivern at Queens Park press conference Nov 18, 2008. Click on picture to go to Sun Media video.

Here are two of the first media manifestations from Michael Schmidt’s press conference yesterday at Queens’ Park. Click on the picture above to watch a short video and read the accompanying story on the Sun Media website. And here’s an excerpt from the report by Canadian Press. We’ll have more on material that was released at the press conference later this week:

“TORONTO — Ontario’s milk marketing board is an “albatross” that has failed to deliver on its legislated mandate to protect small-scale farming and should be scrapped, farmer and raw-milk activist Michael Schmidt said Tuesday.

Schmidt, who faces prosecution for allegedly violating the province’s ban on raw-milk sales, also threatened legal action against Dairy Farmers of Ontario, the organization that regulates the supply of milk.

“It has done nothing to preserve the family farms of Ontario, which are in steady decline,” Schmidt told a news conference at the provincial legislature.

“It is an albatross around all our necks.”

Schmidt’s news conference coincided with the second anniversary of a raid on his farm about two hours northwest of Toronto, when authorities attempted to shut down his “cow-share” operation.

Ontario, in line with the rest of Canada, forbids the sale of raw milk, though farmers are legally allowed to consume it from cows they own. Schmidt’s system allows people to own a share in his cows, and he supplies them with milk from “their” animals.

Devotees tout the health benefits of raw milk, and frame the vitriolic debate over its safety as one of freedom of choice.

Maverick Progressive Conservative politician Bill Murdoch, whose riding contains Schmidt’s farm outside Durham, Ont., said consumers should have the freedom to buy unpasteurized milk legally.

People are drinking it anyway, and regulating the supply would help ensure its safety and protect their health, Murdoch said.

“The whole thing now is to go back to eat locally … and the only way to be able to do that is to have the family farm that produces different things,” said Murdoch, whose private member’s resolution to examine the issue was shot down by the Liberal government two years ago.

“Other countries all seemed to have worked out a deal somehow. We should have a serious debate about this, like Michael wants.”

Over the summer, Quebec announced it would legalize the sale of young cheese made from raw milk – a dozen years after a major political feud with Ottawa over the issue.

Schmidt, who is currently awaiting sentencing on a contempt-of-court conviction for continuing to supply the unpasteurized milk, blames the Dairy Farmers of Ontario for his legal woes.

The board has stonewalled his request to examine how raw milk could be sold, which he said violates its mandate to carry out research for “policy development and formation.”

“Instead of spending a part of the public’s milk money and exerting their own energies on development to make certified raw milk available … this legislatively mandated monopoly squanders these resources on lobbyists, lawyers and regressive political influence to stand in the way of progress,” Schmidt said.

Board spokesman Bill Mitchell said Tuesday that his group has heard nothing about proposed legal action from Schmidt. He scoffed at Schmidt’s accusations and said the farmer should instead be taking issue with the province’s Health Ministry, which enforces the laws banning raw milk.

“Raw milk is not safe enough to be consumed by the public and that’s why the legislation is in place,” Mitchell said.

“That law is in place to protect the public from communicable diseases that can, unfortunately, be carried by raw milk,” Mitchell said. “That includes listeriosis, which has killed a number of people in terms of sliced meats, and E. coli, which killed people in Walkerton.”

Mitchell also said it’s untrue that raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk, which he noted has added vitamins.

Canada is the only G7 country to ban the sale of raw milk on the basis it poses a serious health hazard.

Activists, drawing on many jurisdictions where its sale is legal – including 28 U.S. states – argue unpasteurized milk is perfectly safe if properly handled.

They also note pasteurization offers no guarantee the milk is uncontaminated….”

Read the whole story here.

And here’s what looks like an earlier version of the same story from “CanadaEast.com”

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