By Rady Ananda
The battle for food freedom intensifies across the planet as citizens assert their right to raw dairy products unadulterated by drugs and genetically modified ingredients – in the face of authorities seeking to restrict our food choices and to criminalize entrepreneurs who operate outside the monopolized factory food system.
The State of Maine recently sued farmer Dan Brown for selling food and milk without State licenses, despite a local law that permits it. “Blue Hill is one of five Maine towns to have passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance,” explains Family Farm Defenders.
Last week, the California Dept of Food and Agriculture recalled raw milk products from Organic Pastures Dairy Co. in Fresno, after five children became ill and admitted to drinking raw milk from OPDC. Tests confirmed, however, that the products did not contain the variety of E. coli known as O157:H7 from which the children suffered.
Next April, Oscar Garrison, president of the Association of Food & Drug Officials, will keynote a Food Safety Summit in Washington, D.C. Hosted by the Executive Education Advisory Committee, the conference will provide dozens of workshops including updates on the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Following that pow-wow, we can expect a more concerted and uniform effort by state officials to impose control over local food choices, in line with federal policy. But as public officials continue to stifle the small business food trade, while promoting genetically modified foods, private groups continue to mount food sovereignty campaigns.
On Nov. 24, FoodShare Toronto and the Toronto Food Policy Council will host a panel discussion to launch the book, “Food Sovereignty in Canada: Creating Just and Sustainable Food Systems.”
Raw milk rallies will be held in Vancouver and Victoria (British Columbia) on Wednesday, Nov. 23rd to oppose the criminalization of fresh milk, which humans have been consuming for thousands of years.
The BC rallies follow on the heels of the legal case of Ontario dairy farmer Michael Schmidt, who was convicted this year of over a dozen provincial offenses related to the sale and distribution of raw milk.
On Nov. 4, Schmidt ended his 37-day hunger strike in protest of the criminalization of fresh milk, after meeting with Ontario Premier Dalton McGinty. Schmidt issued a statement, partly saying:
“This hunger strike was about starting a dialogue with the leader of this province. I have been on this human journey for 17 years looking for constructive dialogue, and I have been dragged through the courts for a crime that has no victims.”
Recognizing the need for the movement to organize effectively in a political climate where legislatures do the bidding of their corporate sponsors, Canadians are asked to continue lobbying public officials and writing letters to local news media.
Canada is the only G8 country that bans the sale of raw milk, along with 12 states in the US.
Conversely, raw milk is so popular in Europe that it’s sold in roadside vending machines. The Queen of England is such a fan that she had fresh, raw milk delivered daily to her grandsons while they were in college.
Last year, Canada’s ichannel TV station aired Milk War, a documentary highlighting Schmidt’s battle with authorities over the right to consume and sell raw milk.
“Milk is a living product. It’s alive. It contains lots of bacteria,” director Kevin O’Keefe explains. Schmidt’s strict biodynamic system allowed him to produce living milk safely, unlike conventional dairies that sell drug-tainted milk.
In a brief history of milk, culinary writer Anne Mendelson says that up to 100 years ago, “most people actually drank soured raw milk. This is not the same as the soured pasteurized milk that may be in your refrigerator right now. When raw milk sours, lactic acid bacteria in the air create a fermentation that preserves the milk and yields delicious, tangy flavors.” Soured pasteurized milk can kill you, and certainly would sicken most people.
“When a new version of the raw milk movement began gathering strength in the 1970s, scarcely anyone remembered the terms on which a certain amount of rational debate had once taken place [in the late 1800s]. Part of the reason is that over the course of the twentieth century, the scale and structure of the fluid milk industry had undergone drastic changes that turned a highly variable, fragile product into a nearly featureless one poorly understood by consumers, regulators, or polemicists. Meanwhile, new dairying and processing practices had begun creating hospitable conditions for pathogens that were unknown during the first controversies but that urgently need to be considered today.”
She warns that both sides of the debate have their share of liars, concluding:
“Making raw milk accessible to all who consider themselves constitutionally entitled to do their own research and come to their own conclusions is a recipe for chaos. Imposing blanket prohibitions on the sale of raw milk is a recipe for driving it underground while encouraging angrier, more paranoid attacks on the entire foundation of public-health authority.”
Yes, democracy is chaotic, but far preferable to living under tyranny, where our every move is regulated.
Mendelson admits that public health agencies like the FDA asserting it is “NEVER!” safe to drink raw milk are being deceptive. But, she clearly believes public health authorities work on behalf of public health. She considers it “paranoid” to suggest that government is controlled by multinational corporations, and never addresses the reality that key government officials come straight from those corporations. There is nothing paranoid about recognizing that bureaucratic rule-making benefits monopolized industrial milk.
Despite her faulty analysis stemming from corporate naiveté, the piece is well worth the read for the historical background. And, contrary to what regulators and their fans would have us believe, the milk wars are not about food safety, given the extreme rarity of raw dairy illnesses.
Amid a 15-year battle in Australia, food standard authorities admit that “fewer than 10 people” have become ill from raw dairy in the past decade.
Despite this, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) considers raw dairy a Category 3 product, which poses a “medium to high level” risk for pathogens, since it is not pasteurized. FSANZ plans to strip states of their regulating power over raw dairy.
We see the same refusal by US authorities to admit and publicize that dairy is the safest type of food in the U.S. According to data collected by raw milk opponent Bill Marler, at least 158 people became ill from raw milk or its products in 2010. Among nine million raw dairy fans, that’s an illness incidence rate of 2/1000 of a percent, or one illness for every 41,000 raw dairy imbibers.*
However, according to analysis of government data by retired pathologist Dr Ted Beals, no one has become ill from raw milk in the past 12 years in the US.
Despite the conflicting data, food business writer David Gumpert estimates that of the 21-25 thousand foodborne illnesses reported each year to the Centers for Disease Control, about one-half of one percent result from contaminated raw dairy.
Such a low incidence of pathogenic raw milk is due to the competitive exclusion principle in biology — the more friendly bacteria, the fewer pathogenic ones that survive. Pasteurizing milk kills the probiotics (as well as most pathogens), and destroys immune-boosting enzymes.
In Drugged up on Milk, Dr William Campbell Douglass explains:
“If there’s anything more tainted than a glass of water, it’s store-bought milk. The pasteurization process that’s supposed to make milk ‘safe’ robs it of all nutrition while doing zilch to break down all the drugs, hormones and other chemicals secretly (and illegally) given to dairy cows.”
Given the health benefits of raw milk, these miniscule illness rates hardly support raw dairy criminalization, or the need for strict regulation. The attack on raw dairy is merely a corporate move to monopolize milk sales.
Unfortunately, what conventional dairies sell is laden with pharmaceutical drugs and, in the US, genetically modified hormones (recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH). Cows in conventional dairies are crammed into tight living spaces and fed unnatural foods, often leading to illness and early death.
In a victory for informed consent, last year an Ohio district court overturned the ban on labeling milk as free from artificial hormones. Though it’s been over a year since that decision, the Ohio Dept of Agriculture has still not published new labeling rules. A search for rBST on its website reveals only the old rule that says labeling rBGH-free milk as “rBGH-free” is “false and misleading.”
The genetically modified additive, which has been linked to cancer and lower milk quality, is approved by the same FDA that says it is “NEVER!” safe to drink raw milk. Developed by Monsanto, rBGH is banned in Canada, the European Union, Japan and Australia.
In other news on corporate-government collusion, Canada again makes headlines, along with Nepal.
- Nepal officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Dept of Agriculture have partnered with USAID and Monsanto to promote the use of genetically modified maize seeds. After public outcry, officials denied any agreement was reached, contradicting the press release.
- Canadian Biotechnology Action Network announced that Canada is proposing to allow contamination of the food supply with genetically engineered foods that have not been approved. Agriculture Canada has organized “stakeholder” consultations on what it calls “Low Level Presence” and has opened a comment period until November 25. Canadians can write an opposition letter here.
Ergo, we see a growing populist movement to re-assert personal food control in response to the steady push by monopoly forces to criminalize food produced outside the industrial system.
*Updated Nov. 23 to include Marler’s data. To reach 158 raw milk illnesses, I excluded his erroneous inclusion of “raw” milk illnesses when 18 children became ill in Wisconsin, since the milk was from a dairy CAFO that was intended to be pasteurized, but was stolen by the farmer’s relative who provided it to a school. Food business writer David Gumpert predicted that “raw milk opponents would try to categorize that case as a raw milk problem.”
Marler is aware of his continuing erroneous claim, given his response to my article on the subject. He is fully aware, based on his chart, that the milk was intended to be pasteurized. No one can drink raw milk from a dairy that intends to pasteurize it because of the filthy conditions under which that milk is produced. All of it is contaminated, so it is deceptive of Attorney Marler to label this a “raw” milk outbreak.