[Marxism] James McWilliams on food, not very palatable

Louis Proyect 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 
raised "industrially":

April 10, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor
Free-Range Trichinosis

Austin, Tex.

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.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/10/opinion/10mcwilliams.html

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 
with neurotoxins.

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 
interest—GMO free.

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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