From Scott Morgan, on Central Jersey.com
“It was 2006, and for the second time, Michael Schmidt was confronted by armed policemen on his farm. They came — 25 of them — in camouflage fatigues and hazmat suits to shut down his illegal operation.
But this was no U.S. government raid against a suspected foreign-born bioterrorist. This was Ontario, Canada. And it was all about milk.
Twelve years earlier, Canadian authorities had raided Mr. Schmidt’s farm for the same reason — to stop him from producing raw (unpasteurized) milk. Largely, he let the furor blow over. But the second raid turned Mr. Schmidt from organic farmer to food-rights activist almost overnight. “After the second raid, I said, ‘Now I’m fighting back,’” he says. “I’m from Germany, so I know what happens when people don’t speak up. There is a moral obligation to fight back.”
Mr. Schmidt has been lecturing on the myths and realities of raw milk ever since Canadian authorities told him he was a public health hazard. He will be one of the keynote presenters at the 2012 NOFA- NJ (Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey) Winter Conference at Princeton University, from Jan. 27 through 29.
The question at the core of his talks is whether you and I have the right to drink milk that goes straight from the cow to the bottle without a stopover at the pasteurization vat. This question has sparked a massive political debate in North America over who should have the final say about what we put into our bodies — the government or the consumer.
On one side of the fight are those who claim that raw milk is key to a heightened immune system and that the process of pasteurization, like chemotherapy, destroys as many good bacteria as bad. On the other side is the health and safety establishment, which cites example after example of E. coli and Campylobacter infections stemming from the consumption of raw milk products.Mr. Schmidt, however, says the real issue is less about safety than it is about corporate interests. Dairy, after all, is big business. According to the USDA, the United States alone produces more than 20 billion gallons of milk per year. And most of those gallons are transported from farms in the Midwest to stores around the country, thanks to pasteurization, which extends milk’s shelf life by destroying as much as 90 percent of harmful bacteria.This, Mr. Schmidt says, has allowed the issue of consumer rights to be buried in a veil of public safety and health concern rhetoric. He acknowledges that people have gotten sick from drinking raw milk and eating cheese made from it; and he says he is not on a campaign against pasteurization — pasteurization, in fact, has made the dairy industry what it is.But as more consumers come to mistrust and dislike the large-scale factory farms that produce the bulk of North America’s milk, the more the dairy industry is using fear and half-truths to cloud the fact that it sets many of the food and agricultural policies enacted in the United States and Canada, Mr. Schmidt says. Lawmakers, he says, listen to the loudest voices, and the dairy industry’s tens of billions of dollars make for a mighty loud constituency….”