Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Food Freedom for All

Think you have the right to choose what foods you and your family consume? Not according to the Ontario Court of Justice, you don't.

Michael Schmidt, an organic raw milk farmer, was recently convicted of 15 provincial offences related to the distribution of organic raw milk through a cowshare program at his Durham, Ontario farm. Because the commercial sale of raw milk is illegal in Canada, members of the program purchase shares in cows. It is not illegal to drink raw milk from your own cows. In 2010, the Ontario Court of Justice acquitted Mr. Schmidt of all the charges laid against him. The court's decision was appealed and in September 2011, the court found Mr. Schmidt guilty of 15 out of the 19 charges. In doing so, the Ontario Court of Justice has set a very dangerous precedent.

What's next? Will breast feeding mothers no longer be able to purchase breast pumps and store their breast milk? It's raw, after all. Will all organic produce and meat soon be illegal because it isn't subject to the sterilizing chlorine baths that conventional foods are subject to? Or will raw food be outlawed altogether? After all, large-scale industrial production of food results in numerous outbreaks of food-related illness every single year. And that's precisely why we have all of these food regulations - to protect consumers from the health risks that arose as a result of centralizing and industrializing food production. Before Big Food there was little to no risk associated with the foods we ate. Farmer Schmidt is being persecuted by laws that were meant to protect consumers from food production practices that are the polar opposite of the practices employed on his farm.

There's a lot of debate going on about the health benefits of raw milk in comparison to the risks. I'm inclined to believe that the benefits far outweigh the risks, especially considering that not one person has become ill from consuming the milk distributed by Mr. Schmidt, or by larger raw milk producers in the U.S. According to the Campaign for Real Milk: Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. 

Whichever side of the benefits vs. risks debate you're on, however, isn't really relevant. Very few of us would argue that tobacco, alcohol, or high fructose corn syrup are good for us. In fact, these three legal substances cause much more sickness and death than has ever been attributed to the consumption of raw milk. But we're free to consume them, if we so choose. So what's the difference between these substances, which have been proven to cause numerous health problems, and raw milk, which has been successfully administered therapeutically to combat such ailments as asthma and allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis? Well, for starters, tobacco, alcohol, and high fructose corn syrup are all members of the Big Business Club. So is conventional milk, for that matter. It should come as no surprise that food regulations, more often than not, support Big Food and undermine small-scale, local production. Big Food has the power and money to lobby the government and push out alternatives that they perceive as a threat. Local food is one of those alternatives.

We can all stand up for our right to consume the foods that we deem best for ourselves and our families. Michael Schmidt is currently on his 25th day of a hunger strike, awaiting the opportunity to sit down with Dalton McGuinty and plead his case. Support Mr. Schmidt's fight to protect or food freedom by joining the Support Michael Schmidt! Facebook group. Go a bit further and write a letter to your MP, MPP, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Premier McGuinty himself. Remind our government officials that Canada is the only G8 country to outlaw raw milk, and that the freedom to choose the foods we consume is more important than policies that serve only to protect the interests of Big Food.

You can keep up with Michael Schmidt's battle for our food freedom here.


Bytesmiths said...

Thank you, Chad, for a voice of sanity amid the hyperbole. I can't believe they fine a person $110,000 for distributing a product to its legal owners because it "may contain pathogens," while the likes of Maple Leaf Foods kill people with tainted luncheon meat, and are still in business!

Thank goodness the Harper Government is devoted to protecting the little guy from big business interests -- NOT!

Chad Roberts said...

Unfortunately, most Conservative supporters still believe that Conservative governments are looking out for the little guy. They may be oblivious to the many ways Conservatism in Canada has changed or just refusing to acknowledge it, but until supporters of old Conservatism realize it no longer exists we're in for a rocky political ride here in Canada.

George Affleck said...

Thank you for such a strong and truthful article. I also liked Chad's comment on the need for old Conservatism.

For those who may want to do something positive to help Michael, please write any and all politicians especially Dalton McGuinty. Directions and links are found at:

If Dalton does not soon respond and agree to talk to Michael, he will be complicit in Michael's death.

Anonymous said...

Michael Schmidt has repeatedly suffered terrorizing of his family and co-workers by raids of armed MNR, police, by seizures, fines, court dates. Yet his cheese-making room (visited by many), is on a par with the very cleanest of kitchens, and no one has fallen ill from his products.