What’s for dinner? — Corporate Food Tyranny threatens raw milk and more

Russ addresses the threat posed by “Food Safety” bill S-510 in a new post on his “Volatility” blog titled “What’s for Dinner: Corporate Food Tyranny (1 of 2)”

“Last April the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) filed a lawsuit against the FDA’s interstate raw milk ban. While the suit is unlikely to prevail given likely court deference to the imperial executive branch, it’s already done important work in eliciting a remarkable statement of the FDA’s ideology and general attitude toward the American people. Before I get to the FDA brief, let’s first recap the pending food bill. This bill has been the subject of great controversy, with many like me calling it a Food Tyranny bill, others dismissing this as overly alarmist. I will establish in this two-parter that there’s nothing exaggerated in the alarm we raise. I’ll cite the evidence of the government’s stated ideology and its record of action to date.

But first let’s look at what the food bill actually says. (There are actually many of these bills. So far the only one which passed was HR 2749 in 2009. This was the main House food “safety” bill. The Senate’s corresponding version is S 510, currently in limbo. Reid had said he’d seek cloture during the lame duck session, but it’s now questionable whether that will be possible, pending the outcomes of still-disputed races. At any rate, if S 510 passes it will go into conference with HR 2749. Henceforth I’ll refer to this pending conference as “the” food bill, although there are significant differences between the House and Senate versions. The Senate version was considerably improved in committee, thanks to public interest pressure. But in spite of the optimism of NSAC and others, I’m going to go by the established trend, exemplified by the health racket bailout and the sham finance “reform”, that the conference results in a bill far worse than the better version, and perhaps even worse than both prior versions, as in the case of the health “insurance” Stamp Act.) For much of this I’ll be drawing on this excellent analysis at Food Freedom, which includes citations of the bill’s sections and subsections for every point.

The bill claims to be about food safety, vs. both pathogens and terrorism. But the fact is that all threats to food safety are either caused or magnified by our dependence upon a radically centralized industrial food production and distribution system. Existing regulations, if rigorously enforced against big corporate producers, would have been sufficient to prevent recent outbreaks like the egg salmonella, the peanut butter salmonella, or the spinach E. coli.

But the proposed bill does nothing about either of these conditions. It not only does nothing to decentralize and decorporatize the system, but will do all it can to further entrench this system. It will do nothing to force “regulators” at the FDA or USDA to enforce the law against the real culprits. Instead it will increase their discretion at the same time it increases their power. Meanwhile, neither existing nor proposed regulations are sufficient to meet the clear and present danger posed by the very existence of factory farms, which are nothing but unregulated bioweapons labs which will one day be the vector of a lethal pandemic. The food bill studiously leaves them intact.

Instead, this bill imposes a one-size-fits-all standard on all producers and distributors of any size. This standard is intended to be a minor nuisance at most to the big corporations (and probably won’t even be that, given the government’s record of benign neglect of the big offenders), while imposing a tremendous, perhaps insurmountable, financial and logistical burden on small outfits.

So the bill will definitely do nothing to improve food safety. The bill is definitely crafted to further centralize the system, further shackle us to corporate agriculture, and make our food even less safe. That’s indisputable. I suppose the only “controversy” here is whether that’s the government’s intent or not, and therefore whether under this bill things would just get inertially worse, or whether on the contrary it will be aggressively used as a weapon of accelerated tyranny. I’ll argue it’s the latter, and provide evidence.

There’s plenty of evidence of malicious intent in the bill itself.

If we think back to 2008 we can remember how the original version of the TARP was even worse in principle than the one that ended up passing. It was a three page demand sheet which would have made the Treasury secretary a veritable economic dictator. Opposition focused especially on the provision declaring that the secretary’s fiat could not be subject to judicial review.

Today’s food bill proposes something similar but far worse, as it would give the secretary of Health and Human Services dictatorial, unreviewable power over our very food. The House bill explicitly delineates “Quarantine Authority for Foods”, which could be declared upon the flimsiest pretext. This quarantine could give the federal government total power over all foods within a state or states. The criterion for this would be if the secretary “believes there’s a reasonable probability” of a danger of food-borne illness. One of the measures of assessing this probability would be the distribution of “adulterated” or “misbranded” food. But these and other FDA criteria have historically been interpreted in vague, capricious, selective ways, generally against smaller producers. “Misbranding” itself is not an English language term for fraud, but a Humpty-Dumpty bureaucratic category and status offense. The FDA issues a definition, and then anything which doesn’t meet its specifications is by definition ”misbranded”. For example, the FDA defines “milk” as pasteurized milk. Thus raw milk becomes unmilk. It is by definition misbranded and outlawed.

Whatever you think of raw milk, it’s easy to see where this process leads. The FDA has systematically encouraged and helped market antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and GMOs: the very malefactors most responsible for food-born illness. So there’s no reason to doubt its potential will to bureaucratically define any food as being a GMO variety, or as having been sprayed with a kind of pesticide, and so on. (And the health racket Stamp mandate also provides the precedent of the government forcing us to buy private products. In tandem with corrupt court decisions on this mandate, the FDA would have a wide open field to mandate any and every kind of corporate input for all food production.)

So under the bill the government would achieve sweeping new powers to declare a kind of martial law over food, based upon a corporatized bureaucrat’s notion of a “reasonable probability” that any sort of threat to food safety exists. As we’ve just seen, this alleged ”threat” needn’t be an actual safety threat, but perhaps only a threat to the FDA’s corporate-captured definitions of food itself. Meanwhile, either as part of this quarantine, or as part of any action short of it, the bill also gives the FDA vastly greater power to search and demand access to records without a warrant. I previously wrote about the illegal Rawesome raid and fraudulent Morningland ”warrant”. But once this bill passes, actions like this will probably become technically legal, as the warrant requirements will be largely suspended. Armed food police will be able to kick in your kitchen door on the say-so of some bureaucratic thug….”

Read it all on Russ’ “Volatility” blog.

1 Comment

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One response to “What’s for dinner? — Corporate Food Tyranny threatens raw milk and more

  1. C Woods

    The FTCLDC has lost many “gimme” cases, were a single right argument would have stopped Wisconsin’s DATCP in its tracks as it attempted to push NAIS. They lost be not filing in the right jurisdictions, not filing the right papers, not filing on time, and yet they are the ones suing the FDA on a case that could threatens 10,000 years of human rights around food, contracting, health.

    And so far, they have put forward none of the substantive constitutional arguments and has not countered the FDA claimed jurisdiction in an area in which it has none.

    Is the FTCLDF a ringer?

    Someone on its board has a history of filing cases that undo farming rights.

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