Thursday, March 12, 2009

Capitalists Aren't Conservative

     In his recent book, "Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power," Mark Schapiro describes the 21st-century divergence of consumer protections in the U.S. from just about everywhere else. 
     It's been a decade or more since the European Union decided to adopt the Precautionary Principle as a key guideline for consumer protection. But, wouldn't you know it, U.S. imperial capitalists want no part of this kind of conservative cautious approach. They would rather keep making the kind of easy money to be had when 'buyer beware' is the rule.
     The result is that the U.S. is in danger of becoming a dumping ground for toxic or substandard products of all kinds that other countries - including China - are deciding to ban. Make-up and other household products, pesticides, GMOs, cars, and electronic equipment are some of the key industrial sectors where U.S. standards are rapidly falling to dead last.
     Notice that farmers are particularly hard hit by lack of demand for GMO corn & soybeans; Schapiro reports that only ethanol demand has so far saved the U.S. commodities markets from a price-busting glut.
     Recently, at the California Small Farm Conference, I heard more bad news for family farmers who practice earth-friendly farming. Recent minor outbreaks of e. coli have blocked anti-erosion projects because government inspectors from cities think crops should be hermetically protected from the natural world, just because a few people got sick from eating bagged salad that was past its pull-date and had been sitting in its plastic germ incubator for too long.
     The other day, the Sacramento Bee reported that a federal judge upheld requirements that raw almonds, including organic ones, must be pasteurized to protect us from salmonella. (How do almonds get salmonella anyway?) This judge upheld the result of a weaselly process whereby the Almond Board of California got away with pretending it's a government agency that has the authority to promulgate regulations like this, despite the protests of a few consumers and nonprofit organizations who were paying attention.
     The solution? Labeling. Complete, transparent, honest labels on every product. Why wouldn't an honorable corporation want to share with consumers complete information on their products? Because they don't want you to know; if they tell the truth, people won't buy their crap.

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