[Marxism] James McWilliams on food, not very palatable
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 10 08:20:18 MDT 2009
Today's op-ed page in the NY Times has a piece by a history professor at
Texas State University at San Marcos named James E. McWilliams that
asserts that free-range pork is more unhealthy than those that are
April 10, 2009
By JAMES E. McWILLIAMS
IS free-range pork better and safer to eat than conventional pork? Many
consumers think so. The well-publicized horrors of intensive pig farming
have fostered the widespread assumption that, as one purveyor of
free-range meats put it, “the health benefits are indisputable.”
However, as yet another reminder that culinary wisdom is never
conventional, scientists have found that free-range pork can be more
likely than caged pork to carry dangerous bacteria and parasites. It’s
not only pistachios and 50-pound tubs of peanut paste that have been
infected with salmonella but also 500-pound pigs allowed to root and to
roam pastures happily before butting heads with a bolt gun.
The study published in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Disease that
brought these findings to light last year sampled more than 600 pigs in
North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. It discovered not only higher rates
of salmonella in free-range pigs (54 percent versus 39 percent) but also
greater levels of the pathogen toxoplasma (6.8 percent versus 1.1
percent) and, most alarming, two free-range pigs that carried the
parasite trichina (as opposed to zero for confined pigs). For many
years, the pork industry has been assuring cooks that a little pink in
the pork is fine. Trichinosis, which can be deadly, was assumed to be
Agricultural scientists have long known that even meticulously managed
free-range environments subject farm animals to a spectrum of infection.
This study, though, brings us closer to a more concrete idea of why the
free-range option can pose a heightened health threat to consumers. Just
a little time outdoors increases pigs’ interaction with rats and other
wildlife and even with domesticated cats, which can carry transmittable
diseases, as well as contact with moist soil, where pathogens find an
environment conducive to growth. The natural dangers that motivated
farmers to bring animals into tightly controlled settings in the first
place haven’t gone away.
Missing from this analysis is any consideration of the impact of
industrial farming on the environment and its broader health implications:
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
June 28, 1997 Saturday
Deadly dinoflagellates latest X-Files-like threat The 'cell from hell'
is flourishing off North Carolina's coast thanks to hog farming, bad
government and just plain human arrogance.
TOXIC dinoflagellates, the latest biological threat to emerge from the
slime of civilized waste, are great biological oddities and even greater
media fodder. Dubbed "the cell from hell," the dino belongs to both the
animal and plant kingdoms, and inhabits algae blooms. As a fairly
ancient organism, it has also adapted all kinds of amazing survival tricks.
It can live, for instance, in both salt and fresh water, and the more
polluted the better. The voracious fish-eater (it sucks their flesh
right off) can also take on a variety of shapes (some 24 guises in all),
ranging from hibernating cysts to two-tailed flagellates that stun prey
The organism's airborne vapours have blacked out scientists and given
ocean-goers joint pain, faulty memories, immune failure and even
personality changes. As such, dinos deserve their biohazard level three
Although this unicellular parasite has been responsible for red tides or
blooms of murderous algae since biblical times, it's now having a heyday
off North Carolina's coast, thanks to hog farming, bad government and
just plain human arrogance.
Rodney Barker, a New Mexico writer, hasn't so much fashioned a tale
about a deadly and lively organism as he has another damning account of
irresponsible economies. Just think of dinos as the aquatic version of
mad cow disease. Aside from flesh-sucking and brain-numbing flagellates,
Barker's central characters include one intrepid aquatic scientist,
JoAnn Burkholder, and a score of blind and deaf officials at North
Carolina's health and environment departments.
For the record, toxic dinos have killed billions of fish on the eastern
seaboard in the last five years and afflicted hundreds of bathers,
sailors, fishermen and divers with festering skin sores and neurological
Burkholder, now the world's expert on Pfiesteria piscicida, suspects
that the dinos emerged bigtime in response to nutrient-rich human and
animal wastes spilled into coastal rivers. North Carolina's booming hog
industry tipped the scales in the organism's favour by producing more
waste than the people of New York City.
It turns out that McWilliams is also a big fan of DDT and genetic
The Green Monster
Could Frankenfoods be good for the environment?
By James E. McWilliams
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009, at 6:58 AM ET
I'm sitting at my desk examining a $10.95 jar of South River Miso. The
stuff is delicious, marked by a light, lemony tang. The packaging, by
contrast, is a heavy-handed assurance of purity. The company is eager to
tell me that the product I've purchased is certified organic, aged for
three weeks in wood (sustainably harvested?), unpasteurized, made with
"deep well water," handcrafted, and—the designation that most piques my
GMO refers to "genetically modified organisms." A genetically modified
crop results from the laboratory insertion of a gene from one organism
into the DNA sequence of another in order to confer an advantageous
trait such as insect resistance, drought tolerance, or herbicide
resistance. Today almost 90 percent of soy crops and 80 percent of corn
crops in the United States sprout from genetically engineered seeds.
Forty-five million acres of land worldwide contain genetically
engineered crops. From the perspective of commercial agriculture, the
technology has been seamlessly assimilated into traditional farming
From the perspective of my miso jar, however, it's evident that not all
consumers share the enthusiasm. It's as likely as not that you know GMOs
by their stock term of derision: Frankenfoods. The moniker reflects a
broad spectrum of concerns: Some anti-biotech activists argue that these
organisms will contaminate their wild cousins with GM pollen and drive
native plants extinct. Others suggest that they will foster the growth
of "superweeds"—plants that develop a resistance to the herbicides many
GMOs are engineered to tolerate. And yet others fear that genetic
alterations will trigger allergic reactions in unsuspecting consumers.
Whether or not these concerns collectively warrant a ban on GMOs—as many
(most?) environmentalists would like to see—is a hotly debated topic.
The upshot to these potential pitfalls, however, is beyond dispute: A
lot of people find this technology to be creepy.
Actually, what I find creepy is the idea that industrial farming is the
salvation for a food production system that is falling apart at the seams.
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