Sunday, July 15, 2012

Returning to Mid-19th Century Safety Regimes

In the late nineteenth century America people routinely died from deliberately adulterated and accidently contaminated food.

The “Pure Food” movement in the 1870s grew up as a result of food-caused deaths and illnesses.

The Pure Food movement eventually led to the Food and Drugs Act of 1906.

(see Janssen “The stories of the laws behind the labels”

It appears that food producers are deliberately pushing for a return to the laissez-faire approach to mid-nineteenth century food safety.

Below is a series of articles that illustrate how the regulatory process is being corrupted.

At issue in the first article is a mere $5 million dollar program that no doubt saves lives, especially those of vulnerable children and elderly populations, by testing food for pathogens:

Produce-safety testing program on chopping block by Dina ElBoghdady July 12 The Washington Post

[Excerpted] "Congress is poised to scrap funding for the only program that consistently tests select vegetables and fruit for pathogens — an initiative that’s led to about 30 recalls since 2009.

The Agriculture Department, which runs the Microbiological Data Program, says getting rid of it is a necessary belt-tightening measure during tough fiscal times....

Meanwhile, evidence has been mounting for at least a decade that fresh vegetables and fruit are a major source of food-borne illness. Deadly outbreaks linked to spinach and cantaloupe in recent years only underscore the risks. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that vegetables that grow on vines and stalks ranked second on a list of foods linked to the most illnesses, topped only by fruits and nuts...

...Consumer advocates say they’re outraged that the government would cut the program, which was funded at about $5 million last year. They suspect that industry pressure, not fiscal constraints, influenced the government’s decision..."

Majia here: This is an outrage. E-coli and salmonella kill people every year and the government is going to cut what limited resources it currently allocates to the prevention of food borne illnesses caused by these bacteria.

Take a look at the CDC statistics for deaths from food borne illnesses in 2011

Here are some other food related articles that demonstrate a complete abdication on the part of government for ensuring food safety

Is Monsanto About to Gain Immunity From Federal Law?
By Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins, Alternet 07 July 12

[Excerpted] "A so-called “Monsanto rider,” quietly slipped into the multi-billion dollar FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill, would require – not just allow, but require - the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a genetically engineered crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed. All the farmer or the biotech producer has to do is ask, and the questionable crops could be released into the environment where they could potentially contaminate conventional or organic crops and, ultimately, the nation’s food supply....

....We have only to look back to the StarLink corn and LibertyLink rice contamination episodes for evidence of how misguided this provision is. In October 2000, traces of an Aventis GM corn called StarLink showed up in taco shells in the U.S. even though the corn had not been approved for human consumption because leading allergists were concerned it would cause food allergies. The contamination led to a massive billion dollar recall of over 300 food brands. The 'StarLink' gene also turned up unexpectedly in a second company's corn and in US corn exports, causing a costly to the nation’s grain-handling system, and spurring lawsuits by farmers whose crops were damaged.

MAJIA HERE; The third article examines genetically modified food. The FDA claims that genetically modified corn, tomatoes, and soybeans are IDENTICAL to non-genetically modified corn, tomatoes, and soybeans. However, this article provides evidence that they are not the same because genetically modified products have proteins not found in non-genetically modified equivalents.

Former Monsanto Employee Exposes Fraud By Sarah Damian, Food Integrity Campaign 14 July 12

[Excerpt] "This week the Food Nation Radio network interviewed former Monsanto employee Kirk Azevedo about his concerns with the leading biotech company's practices, a timely interview as the battle over genetically engineered (GE) food regulation continues on a state, national, and international scale.

…Around 1996, he became a local market manager for Monsanto, serving as a facilitator for GE crops for the western states.... of Monsanto's Ph.D. researchers informed Azevedo that "there's actually other proteins that are being produced, not just the one we want, as a byproduct of genetic engineering process."

This concerned Azevedo, who had also been studying protein diseases (including prion diseases such as mad cow disease) and knew proteins could be toxic. When he told his colleague they needed to destroy the seeds from the GE crop so that they aren't fed to cattle, the other researcher said that Monsanto isn't going to stop doing what it's been doing everywhere else.

Azevedo recalls his disillusionment:
I saw what was really the fraud associated with genetic engineering: My impression, and I think most people's impression with genetically engineered foods and crops and other things is that it's just like putting one gene in there and that one gene is expressed. If that was the case, well then that's not so bad. But in reality, the process of genetic engineering changes the cell in such a way that it's unknown what the effects are going to be.  

Azevedo has since left the chemical industry and now calls for the enforcement of GE labeling laws...

Majia here: The two articles above illustrate the power of large food producers - Monsanto specifically - to bend safety laws for products that may have significant health risks.

In particular, the pressure to promote and spread genetically modified seeds is overwhelming efforts to ensure their safety for human health and the wider environment.

A final article illustrates how the FDA hierarchy spied on the agency's own scientists because these scientists were concerned that the agency was failing to fulfill its mission to protect human health:

In Vast Effort, F.D.A. Spied on E-Mails of Its Own Scientists. by Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane. The New York Times.

[Excerpted — A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama, previously undisclosed records show.

What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort. 

Moving to quell what one memorandum called the “collaboration” of the F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and “defamatory” information about the agency...

...The extraordinary surveillance effort grew out of a bitter dispute lasting years between the scientists and their bosses at the F.D.A. over the scientists’ claims that faulty review procedures at the agency had led to the approval of medical imaging devices for mammograms and colonoscopies that exposed patients to dangerous levels of radiation..."

Majia Here: So, the FDA hierarchy is stacked with political appointees from the agricultural and medical industry and ensures that the only people promoted to management are "yes" men/woman.
Believe me, I know exactly how that works having worked in large bureaucracies most of my life.

Yes people are obliging to hierarchy and don't have the ethical gumption to do the right thing because they are weak.

The FDA obviously has ethical employees who remain committed to the agency's charge, but the bureaucracy hierarchy is blighted by greed, corruption, and weak minded leadership.

It is a crime that an agency tasked with human health would be corrupted by special interests.

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