Thursday, August 10, 2006

who needs the usda?

I sure don't. Neither should anyone else.

All of the supposedly beneficial things that the USDA is "supposed" to carry out can be practiced without a government bureaucracy inherently prone to corporate manipulation.

The latest example of the USDA's status as a menace to our health came to my attention thanks to the LRC blog.

First, fromAnthony Gregory's May 2004 article titled "The USDA and Cow Disease Madness":
The USDA is blocking an American slaughterhouse that wishes to voluntarily test its beef for mad cow disease so it can sell meat to Japan.

Creekstone Farms, a slaughterhouse in Kansas, has spent $500,000 to create a mad cow testing facility to comply with Japan’s tougher regulations. Forbidden from testing and shut off from its Japanese market, the company loses $200,000 in sales every day, and it has already been forced to layoff fifty workers.

Unfortunately for the people at Creekstone Farms, the USDA will not permit such testing, because the agency does not consider the testing “scientifically warranted,” and it worries that competing slaughterhouses may appear unsafe by comparison.

Americans who believe that the USDA protects consumers from tainted beef might find themselves scratching their heads. Why would the USDA interfere with a business taking extra precautions to prove the safety of its product to its customers?

Historically, government regulation of beef has often had less to do with common sense or genuine health concerns than with the state-corporate favoritism inherent in a highly regulated economy.

The USDA is continuing such thuggery today, as revealed by this USA Today editorial:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture — invoking an obscure 1913 law intended to thwart con artists from peddling bogus hog cholera serum to pig farmers — is blocking companies from selling the testing kits to Creekstone.

USDA is doing the bidding of large cattle barons afraid that Creekstone's marketing will force them to do the same tests to stay competitive. It's true that the incidence of mad cow disease is quite low. But there's little logic in stopping a company from exceeding regulations to meet the demands of its customers, or protecting its rivals from legitimate competition.

Not only is USDA blocking Creekstone, the department said last month that it's reducing its mad cow testing program by 90%. The industry and its sympathetic regulators seem to believe that the problem isn't mad cow disease. It's tests that find mad cow.

The department tests only 1% of the roughly 100,000 cattle slaughtered daily. The new plan will test only 110 cows a day.

By cutting back on testing, USDA will save about $35 million a year. That's a pittance compared with the devastation the cattle industry could face if just one human case of mad cow disease is linked to domestic beef

So, the USDA is also slashing it's already feeble testing program in addition to serving as hired goons for the big firms. If food safety is to be a serious concern, then realizing that testing and other safeguards will only be administered, or even allowed, by the government to the extent that it doesn't threaten privledged businesses is a necessary step towards ensuring that the right paths are taken to ensure safety. Rest assured that the USDA will always go down the wrong path, while also setting up roadblocks preventing passage through more proper paths.

Food won't be safe until a separation of food and state occurs. Without such a separation, those with the most cash and the most political clout will continue to dominate the food supply, driving recklessly in search of power and profits without concern for safety.

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