"Don't have a cow!"
-- The Simpsons
Or a fish...or a hairdresser's product, I might add to the advice from Springfield above.
On Saturday, May 22, the San Francisco Chronicle announced on its front page that there would be changes in the standards for organic foods that would permit the use of antibiotics and hormones. And that's just for starters.
To say that the modifications in the National Organic Program which were made in April are a weakening of our standards, "weakening consumer confidence in the organic label" (as Nancy Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm vice president, has asserted), is a severe understatement. It's the beginning of the end.
The dangerous precedent that was orchestrated lies in the fact that program administrators made last month's radical modifications sans seeking public feedback. They did not even consult with their own advisers on the National Organics Standards Board. Such arrogance will prove to be disastrous, as it opens the door to deregulation of a truly fundamental force in public health. We will no longer have to wait for Global Warming to do us in; the stage is set for giving concerned citizens no escape from the tragedy of industrial agriculture. See Andrew Kimbrell, ed., The Fatal Harvest Reader (Washington: Island Press, 2002) if you want documentation for this statement.
Prior to the changes, pesticides had to be approved before their use, cattle and poultry sold for meat couldn't eat non-organic fishmeal in any quantity*, bovines couldn't be treated with antibiotics or any other unnecessary drug, and --get this!-- any seafood, pet food and body care products can now be called "organic" without meeting any standards other than the producer's.
[*This will be allowed even if it contains synthetic preservatives or toxins.]
If you've been wondering why the USDA hasn't objected to things like "organic" salmon in fish markets, there you have it. By the way, contrary to public perception...it's not safe to eat any fish these days. Put that in our collective, unconscious fish farmed/fried brain if you have the guts to face the fish-eyed truth. And don't forget that the dark side of Pisces is being weak-willed and easily led astray.
Neither well-meaning American vegans*, fasting Buddhists in the Himalayas nor the immensely wealthy international individuals from my new Land of Lexus town (Los Gatos, in the heart of Silicon Valley) -- no one -- will be able to escape the implications of this latest abomination.
[*See http://www.satyamag.com/contact.html, heartbeats permitting]
Barbara Robinson, the USDA deputy administrator in charge of the organic program, is telling the public that they can "petition the department to change the regulation" if they can't stomach this turn of events. Wish it were that simple, yes? The National Organic Standards Board was told of the changes just the day before they were announced to the public. That disingenuous move, coupled with the fact that Robinson has only six staff members and a mere $1.5 million out of USDA's $70 billion dollar budget to run the entire organic program, should give all consumer citizens pause. To say the least.
You can go ahead and follow Robinson's advice ("Heaven holds a place for those who pray, Mrs. Robinson?"), and/or you can petition Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, if you like. Just don't put too much on the outcome at the feet of our Las Vegas roulette wheel-of-a-misfortune administrator.
My solution? I say the Consumers Union, the Organic Consumers Association and the Organic Trade Association should take a cue from their French counterparts and commit some civil disobedience along with muscling up their lobbying efforts in Washington. If such an approach had been used by voters following the 2000 elections here, Bush would not have been able to do his particular, peculiarly pernicious form of damage. Everyone I talk to abroad confirms my suspicion that the French would have been on the streets if they had had "a Florida" to deal with and/or "a Supreme Court" to dismantle...in a grande passion for democracy.
Is there a relationship between allowing the Rainbow Warrior killers to get away with murder and allowing genetically modified food to murder the populace? Only my French hairdresser -- using "organic" products -- knows.
I've been giving my activist's "fishy" two-cents to the public over and over again, ad nauseum. I give direct action advice when I write, as a rule, 'cause I can't countenance the paralysis of analysis that pervades this country's political discourse. Perhaps I should use a different tack. What say you pick up a copy of Mike Davis' Dead Cities (New York: The New Press, 2002), read his "Strange Times Begin" section (about our new neighbors, the hermaphroditic polar bears), and you tell me what our next move is.*
Don't struggle over what the meaning of what "is" is here (a la Clinton); get organically active, please. And by all means, DO "have a cow."
* Mike will be joining Jeffrey St. Clair, John Pilger and others at Socialism 2004, June 17-20, a weekend of political debate, discussion and entertainment in Chicago.
Richard Oxman, Organic Indigenist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any delay in his getting back to (and at) readers this week...or so...can be attributed to the family relocating from Santa Cruz to Los Gatos, California; email@example.com is a backup contact.
Other Articles by Richard Oxman
* The Pitts:
A 9/11 Burrow of the American Family