A Law For Food Facism PART TWO
01 Jul 2005
Whose Safety Rules ? Whose Standards?
However, while food hazards grow, food safety laws are being shaped which deregulate large corporations and over-regulate the small scale self organized economy. Such industrial food safety standards promote large scale globalized production, and act against local foods. These laws are also the basis of the Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary Agreement of WTO. An example of these inappropriate standards was used to destroy India’s diverse, decentralize edible oil industry.
In August 1998, a new packaging order was introduced for edible oils on the grounds of food safety which shut down millions of small-scale local oil mills and local edible oils like mustard. Combined with WTO trade rules on removing import restrictions, the laws of false food safety flooded India’s markets with oil from genetically engineered soya beans.
India has used the coconut, groundnut, linseed, mustard, sunflower, and sesame for edible oil. Biodiversity has gone hand in hand with cultural diversity.
The main consequence of the mustard oil ban and the ban on sale of edible oils in unpackaged forms is the destruction of our oilseed biodiversity and the diversity of our edible oils and food cultures. It is also a destruction of economic democracy and economic freedom to produce oils locally, according to locally available resources, and locally appropriate food culture.
Since indigenous oilseeds are high in oil content, they can be processed at household or community level, with eco-friendly, decentralized and democractic technologies.
Soya bean oil is based on a concentration of power, from the seed to trade, to processing and packaging. Monsanto controls seeds through its patents and its ownership of seed corporations. Cargill, Continental and other trading giants control the trade and milling operations internationally. Because of its low oil content, the extraction of soya bean oil needs heavy processing, which is environmentally unfriendly and unsafe for health.
Pseudo safety standards destroy safe and healthy oils and have flooded the market with unhealthy, hazardous oils.
Mustard oil and our indigenous oilseeds symbolize freedom for nature, for our farmers, for our diverse food cultures and for the rights of poor consumers.
Soyabean oil symbolizes concentration of power and the colonization of nature, cultures, farmers and consumers.
The manipulation of oil prices and the restrictions put on indigenous oilseed processing and sales are forcing Indians to consume soya bean oil and thus further strengthen a monoculture and monopoly system.
Free trade and economic globalization has been projected as economic freedom for all. However, as the case of the mustard oil crisis and soya bean imports reveals, so called free trade is based on many levels of destruction of economic freedom of small producers, processors and poor consumers.
Small farmers are loosing their freedom to grow the diverse oilseeds adapted to their soils, ecosystems and cultures. With new patent laws, they will be forced to pay royalties for seeds and will be further pushed into poverty.
Small processors of eco-friendly and safe edible oil are being rendered illegal through new laws like the ‘packaging’ order which is in effect an instrument of market take over of big industry.
Further, while the rhetoric of free trade is that the government should step out of business, the decision on the free import of soya beans, the packaging order and the proposed Food Safety Act reveal how the government is a major player in the transfer of production from small-scale decentralized systems to large-scale, centralized systems under monopoly control.
The state, in fact, is the backbone of the free trade order. The only difference is that instead of regulating big business, it leaves big business free, and declares small producers and diverse cultures illegal so that big business has monopoly control on the food system.
The asymmetric treatment of the small and the big is also evident in the regulation of food safety.
While the government reacted immediately to ban mustard oil, it has done nothing to prevent the dumping of toxic, genetically engineered soyabean. Adulteration undertaken in various forms by the global players gets protection rather than punishment from governments, in India, in the US and across the world. This is why the PFA is being dismantled to legalize adulteration with toxic chemicals and toxic genes.
The highest level political and economic conflicts between freedom and slavery, democracy and dictatorship, diversity and monoculture have thus entered into the simple acts of buying edible oils and cooking our food. Will the future of India’s edible oil culture be based on mustard and other edible oil seeds or will it become part of the globalized monoculture of soya bean with its associated but hidden food hazards.
In Europe too the food safety laws were threatening small producers of typical foods. For example, Slow Food collected half a million signatures that forced the Italian government to amend a law that would have forced even the smallest food maker to conform to the pseudo hygienic standards that suit corporations like Kraft Foods.
TO BE CONTINUED
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