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Food "Safety" Reform and the Covert Continuation of the Enclosure Movement

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A Fork in the Road

If the pending food safety legislation were designed to prevent the spread of food borne enteric pathogens like E coli O157:H7 the most lethal and high-risk pathogen -- then it would naturally look to the source of the problem: confined area feeding operations (CAFOs), where the interests of global grain traders and global meatpacking meet. E. coli O157:H7 is a variant of the non-deadly and omnipresent E. coli, a gut bacteria essential in the uptake of nutrients.[61] E. coli O157:H7 turns deadly to humans because it is acid resistant, meaning it isn't killed by the acid in our stomachs should we consume it.

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As discussed in a report by Charles Benbrook entitled "Review of the Published Research on the Sources and Spread of E. coli O157:H7," cattle fed a high grain ration have levels of E. coli O157:H7 100-times higher than cattle allowed a roughage-based diet. The reason for this dramatic increase is that a grain diet alters the pH level of their digestive system, making it more acidic. This environment favors acid-resistant E. coli. E. coli O157:H7 is spread through manure, which finds it way to crop fields through raw, un-composted manure or though run-off of lagoon water into waterways.[62]

But the proposed legislation focuses its regulations on produce growers, who are the victims of the CAFO-generated pathogens that have polluted the environment. If enteric pathogens are to be reduced, you simply have to address CAFO pollution. Making produce farmers responsible for its appearance on farms is as backwards a solution as making downstream meat processors responsible for USDA-approved contaminated meat coming out slaughterhouse plants. Preventing E. coli O157:H7's spread requires changes in animal husbandry. Does the absence of this requirement indicate the presence of another agenda?

The practices of industrial livestock enterprises are entirely ignored by the pending food safety legislation. And, many in the local food movement find that the source of enteric pathogen pollution are also being ignored by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), a group that represents the interests of those involved in sustainable and local agriculture, in its analysis of the legislation. NSAC has been involved in trying to soften the blow of the legislation, but it has only really tinkered with various details, while leaving fundamental problems alone. The group's representatives just don't seem to be fighting hard enough to protect the interests of its membership. All this leads me to ask: Has NSAC become a controlled opposition group? Does it appear to advocate for the interests of its grassroots membership while actually advancing the agenda of vested interests?

If you examine NSAC's membership list, you'll find that among its participating members is the Wallace Center at Winrock International.[63] Winrock International was founded by Winthrop Rockefeller and counts in the long list of its funding partners numerous foundations, government agencies, international agencies, private sector groups and more, all of whom are aligned with vested interests that want international standards harmonized in order to eliminate barriers to international trade. Winrock International receives financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the DOE, USAID, the US Department of State, the USDA, the World Bank, the FAO, SYSCO and the Tides Foundation.[64] Winrock International also has long-standing ties with Monsanto, which has benefited from Winrock's help in introducing its products to farmers in developing nations around the world. It's hard to image that any organization advocating for the grassroots could be in partnership with a group funded by the likes of these powerful vested interests and not be subject to their influence or control.

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The proposed food safety legislation is an extremely powerful tool designed to enable the dominant industrial global food system to control entirely how food is grown, harvested, processed, distributed and retailed. Like the Enclosure Movement, food safety reform will cause many to be displaced from their livelihoods and land. Are we going to accept these revolutionary measures, just because we're told, "it's for our own good"?

The Senate must reject out of hand this unnecessary, dangerously flawed and game-changing bill. It fails to accomplish is stated purpose and will result in unacceptable consequences.


[1] "The Enclosure Movement in England and Wales,," an excerpt from The Enclosure Maps of Enlgland and Wales, 1595-1918 by Roger J.P. Kain, John Chapman and Richard R. Oliver.

[2] "Jobless Recovery Explained in Two Simple Statistics" by Annie Lowrey. The Washington Independent. 4/15/10.

[3] John Ikerd, "Reweaving the Fabric of Rural America: Food as a Common Thread," a presentation made at PASA's 15th Annual Farming for the Future Conference, Weaving a Diverse Landscape: Food as a Common Thread, State College, PA, February 2-4, 2006.

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[4] John Ikerd, "Reweaving the Fabric of Rural America: Food as a Common Thread," a presentation made at PASA's 15th Annual Farming for the Future Conference, Weaving a Diverse Landscape: Food as a Common Thread, State College, PA, February 2-4, 2006.

[5] John Tozzi, " Entrepreneurs Keep the Local Food Movement Hot," Business Week, December 18, 2009.

[6] "An Adaptive Program for Agriculture: A Statement on National Policy by the Research and Policy Committee of the Committee for Economic Development. The Committee for Economic Development. July 1962.

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Nicole Johnson is a researcher and activist living in Ventura county, California. Her kids wish she would go back to painting and stop worrying so much about the world.

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