May 15, 2012

Useful Idiots – Food Sovereignty Case Study


While looking for some information for another post, I ended up reading some older posts at Marion Nestle’s blog. It was as annoying as one would expect, reading a corporate-state-reformist who thinks Better Hierarchy will solve the problems created only by corporatist hierarchy as such. Here’s a good example (which also includes some pro-Democrat Party tribalism).

On Monday this week [July 2009], Michael Taylor began his new job as special assistant to the FDA Commissioner for food safety. He will be in charge of implementing whatever food safety laws Congress finally decides to pass.

I know that what I am about to say will surprise, if not shock, many of you, but I think he’s an excellent choice for this job. Yes, I know he worked for Monsanto, not only once (indirectly) but twice (directly). And yes, he’s the first person whose name is mentioned when anyone talks about the “revolving door” between the food industry and government. And yes, he signed off on the FDA’s consumer-unfriendly policies on labeling genetically modified foods.

But before you decide that I must have drunk the Kool Aid on this one, hear me out. He really is a good choice for this job. Why? Because he managed to get USDA to institute HACCP (science-based food safety regulations) for meat and poultry against the full opposition of the meat industry — a truly heroic accomplishment. His position on food safety has been strong and consistent for years. He favors a single food agency, HACCP for all foods, and accountability and enforcement. We need this for FDA-regulated foods (we also need enforcement for USDA-regulated foods, but he won’t be able to touch that unless Congress says so). So he’s the person most likely to be able to get decent regulations in place and get them enforced.

(This also sheds some light on Taylor’s liberal fan club in general.)
It’s typical of reform-corporatists to seek further concentration as the solution to every problem generated by concentration. This exactly parallels the Tower of Babel of corporatism in general. Every crisis must be met, not by ending the malevolent and destructive practices which create the crisis, but by doubling down on the evil, adding another layer to the already tottering tower. Reformists are either imitative parasites on the monster, or an indelible part of it.
It’s also typical that they fail to recognize the difference between a systematic corporate totalitarian and a yahoo, and that there are sometimes disagreements between them. Consider this tableau: In the Reagan administration there were lots of deregulation zealots who had come to see deregulation as an end in itself. They lost sight of the overriding profit imperative. At that time Monsanto had settled on its master strategy, which included going all in on riding the government thug/bagman to profit victory. So they wanted a full suite of regulation, but of course pro-corporate regulation. They wanted government proclamations, certifications, PR campaigns, corporatized public-funded research, globalization assistance, aggression against small competitors, an escalated intellectual property regime, and of course monumental amounts of corporate welfare.
But on account of the fact that the administration had come to see “regulation” as bad, Monsanto had to request a meeting with VP Bush and lecture him like a small child on how “regulation vs. deregulation” is meaningless in itself, but rather that the right policy is regulation and/or deregulation, depending on whatever will increase corporate enclosure, concentration, domination, profit, power.
Similarly, Taylor had to overcome some opposition from yahoos in the meat-packer sector who were too short-sighted to see that the HACCP, while nominally representing increased regulation, was really designed to increase sector concentration and power. It has since had that effect.
But corporate liberals like Nestle see only the more scabrous bad guy who opposed something, and assume this must mean the thing is good. But that doesn’t follow at all. (There’s where we see the parallel with “progressive” tribalism – wherever a Republican opposes something, it must be good. And since Taylor was nominally a Clinton cadre, and is now an Obama cadre, it must mean he’s good. Um, no.)
(For another example, that’s how the national Sierra Club happily jumped into bed with Chesapeake Energy and fracking, as soon as Aubrey McClendon bad-mouthed the coal rackets.)
Similarly, the real world effect of HACCP is meaningless to a useful idiot reformist. All that matters is that Democratic administrations support it, while some bad guys oppose it. (Though how Nestle wrapped her mind around the fact that Big Ag supported the Food Control Act she’s shilling for here, so that there is no “bad guy” from the liberal point of view, I don’t know. I guess Party tribalism trumps all in the end.)


1 Comment

  1. I forgot to add that Taylor is indeed “an excellent choice” for the Food Czar job, but for the opposite reason of what Nestle, the CSPI, and others want us to think.

    Comment by Russ — May 15, 2012 @ 7:30 am

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