(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
When companies can successfully pass the accountability buck to avoid responsibility, then the harm from their conduct is not remedied by a real solution. Rules developed by the large agri-business are being used to regulate small farms in a manner that is often contrary to science, organic standards and the natural benefits of ecosystems.
Scientists don’t know how the killer E. coli pathogen migrated from cattle to leafy greens like lettuce, but reforms are underway in California that may soon spread nationwide. The industry drafted rules not based on science to provide “food safety” from lethal and injurious food-borne bacteria. Instead of accountability for large factory farms and food processing companies, biologically diverse farming methods for organic crops are being dumped even though “evidence suggests that industrial agriculture may be the bigger culprit.”
All of this is done in the name of a quick fix to avoid losing more money rather than finding a sustainable solution that does not make things worse.
UC Berkeley food expert Michael Pollan, who advocates smaller-scale farming, nicely summarized these industry rules as “sanitizing” agriculture in a “foolhardy” excursion down the path to “food grown indoors hydroponically.”
In the name of food safety, farmers in California are compelled to comply with “scorched-earth strategies” in the “quest for an antiseptic field of greens.” Food safety now means remove beneficial insects from farms, destroy crops and eliminate ponds so that farms can ostensibly be as sanitary as food plants.
For example, organic buffers are not allowed. A farmer surrounded his organic vegetable fields with a protective shield of hedges of fennel and flowering cilantro that attract beneficial insects as an alternative to using pesticides. This is a large-scale version of companion planting I use to grow my organic garden by planting marigolds around the garden to deter certain bugs. In the name of food safety, these hedges had to be destroyed “because his big customers demand sterile buffers around his crops. No vegetation. No water. No wildlife of any kind.”
Animals are banned from the fields. If a squirrel nibbles on some leafy greens at the edge of crop field or a deer walks through the field without even one nibble, then 30 feet of crops in the area must be destroyed.
Yet, the rules then place “poison-filled tubes” in the lettuce fields to kill rodents. The poison kills the rodents, and also the owls and hawks that are the natural predators of the rats. Frogs are not linked to E. coli, but mechanically harvested greens may include the remains of frogs, so the industry adds elimination of frogs to the food safety list.
Yet, a two-year study by a state wildlife agency, a university and the federal department of agriculture “found that less than one-half of 1 percent of 866 wild animals tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 in Central California.”
Ponds and trees are “poisoned and bulldozed” in the name of food safety. “Farmers are told that ponds used to recycle irrigation water are unsafe. So they bulldoze the ponds and pump more groundwater, opening more of the aquifer to saltwater intrusion… .”
Vegetation buffers used to filter storm runoff and harbor pollinators are cleared. Yet, there is science indicating that removing these vegetation buffers located near field crops can render food less safe because vegetation and wetlands serve as a filter of pathogens.
UC Davis scientists found that vegetation buffers can remove as much as 98 percent of E. coli from surface water. UC Davis advisers warn that some rodents prefer cleared areas.
These rules are part of the “leafy greens marketing agreement” drafted by large growers to establish food safety with leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and lettuce.
The rules are based on what the large farming industry deems to be secret “super metrics” standards. While some of the large food companies are now a de facto government food regulatory agency, their extensive guidelines for leafy green food safety is confidential, proprietary information not to be publicly disclosed. Many of the known rules are unscientific, and conflict with environmental and organic standards.
Farmers must follow them if they expect to sell their crops. These can include vast bare-dirt buffers, elimination of wildlife, and strict rules on water sources. To enforce these rules, retail buyers have sent forth armies of food-safety auditors, many of them trained in indoor processing plants, to inspect fields.
These indoor food safety auditors are not familiar with outdoor farms, and this results in interesting rules:
Auditors have told Kimes that no children younger than 5 can be allowed on his farm for fear of diapers. He has been asked to issue identification badges to all visitors.
Science does not support all the rules, which are destined to create havoc with ecosystems causing more environmental problems. But, hey, “neutering” small, organic farms is one way to get a monopoly on factory farm food production methods that are so much safer than those organic veggies growing in the WH garden and mine.