Killing In The Name: How Agri-Business Makes Its Own Rules--And How Thousands Die As A Result
By Kurtis Bright
Death By Big Agriculture
Following yet another salmonella outbreak in the U.S., and in the wake of the Centers for Disease Control’s weirdly heartbreaking warning that people need to stop kissing their chickens, it is high time we take another look at the way we do big agriculture in the U.S. versus how it is done elsewhere.
For one thing, according to CDC estimates, there are around 1.2 million reported illnesses from salmonella every year in the U.S.
Some 450 of those result in death. And of those cases, around 79,000 are caused by salmonella-infected eggs, which alone account for 30 deaths.
But if we take a look at the U.K., we find a very different story: there were almost no illnesses reported associated with salmonella, and zero deaths.
How is that possible? Even if you take into account the U.K.’s population differential with the U.S., statistically you would expect more than a handful of egg-related salmonella cases.
If it weren’t for one thing: in 1997, faced with its own salmonella crisis, the U.K. government ordered that egg farmers must begin inoculating their laying hens with a salmonella vaccine. That year there some 15,000 cases of salmonella related to eggs; by 2010 that number had dropped to around 500.
So, you ask, in a country as populous and wealthy as the U.S. which faces multiple annual salmonella outbreaks, why do we not adopt the U.K.’s model and vaccinate chickens against this potentially deadly disease?
Because big agri-business doesn’t want it that way, and they make the rules now.
Case in point: in 2010 when researchers at the Food and Drug Administration saw the results of the vaccination program in the U.K., they were of course encouraged and excited. The agency was on the verge of mandating a similar program in the U.S.
However, they ran into a massive roadblock: chicken farmers.
The thing is, chicken mega-farmers like Tyson just aren’t that into you. That is to say, they're not into spending money on saving people from contracting salmonella. They would rather pay lobbyists to get them out of such trifling annoyances like preventing disease and death caused by their products and practices.
And people die as a result. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people who could just as well be your neighbors and friends lost their lives between 2010 and today due to this lack of regulation and the FDA’s deference to big agriculture business interests.
All because big agri-business has such a tight grip on our elected “representatives” and the regulations they control. When Tyson and its ilk says jump, Congress and Federal agencies say “how high?”
The example of the chicken farmers and their salmonella-tainted products is just a drop in the bucket. Look at how Monsanto and Bayer and Syngenta have managed to blanket the entire nation and a great deal of the rest of the planet in a multi-billion-ton cloud of carcinogenic glyphosate for the past 20 years. Consider the number of lives and healthy bodies that have been sacrificed, all because big agri-business controls the rules and is constantly seeking to increase its profits uber alles.
So the next time someone wants to spout the tired old line about how “government regulation is always bad,” point out that when government isn’t regulating on behalf of the people, it will by regulate on behalf of big business--often with deadly results.