April 13, 2009
by Linn Cohen-Cole
Beware homemade pie and a glass of milk?
Unless one sees what has been happening already and who is behind it, it is difficult to believe that the bills in Congress can cover EVERYTHING, that “they” would do something so … totalitarian. It is exactly because it is so monstrous a grab for all control that it is hard to believe.
So, it matters to see things at a smaller scale and in real life and to realize the ways this is already occurring. As the article below will show, and without ever “saying” they are “criminalizing church events,” the state of Pennsylvania is working for the benefit only of corporations, is not only controlling but terrorizing communities using food in the normal ways they have for generations (and with joy), and in the end, effectively “criminalizing church events,” and one might add “religious celebrations, traditional food, ethnic food, charity bazaars, bake sales, ….”
And this is not an isolated happening.
Bill Chirdon, mentioned below, is the same Bill Chirdon responsible for raids against Mark Nolt, a horse and buggy Mennonite dairy farmer, in Pennsylvania. Chirdon, before he became part of Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture’s new policing power over traditional community food, worked for industry – Dean Foods and Hershey’s.
So, in both this attack on a church and on a Mennonite farmer (3 raids against him so far and tens of thousands of dollars in loss of equipment and food), the government, in concert with people from the corporate food industry, is crushing harmless non-corporate competition.
Pennsylvania Governor Rendell is a close friend of the Clintons who put Michael Taylor, a Monsanto lawyer and executive, in charge of our FDA, where he approved Monsanto’s rBGH, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, over objections by the medical communityand even FDA scientists.
Pennsylvania, a dairy state, attempted under Governor Rendell to push a Monsanto ban on the labeling of rBGH (which Kansas is fighting now) while simultaneously attacking its own dairy farmers, the ones who sell pure milk and have been doing so for generations. The issue has nothing to do with “food safety,” just as it didn’t with the women in the church. The “danger” is that those farmers don’t just sell real milk – they sell non-corporate milk. They are doing pure farm to consumer sales, a rare sector of farming that is growing, and without a dime from the government … or to industry. All monies are spent locally and used locally.
The same Michael Taylor from Monsanto is waiting to get a job in the White House over the entire US food supply and this time with the ability to impose up to million dollar a day penalties and 10 years in prison for non-compliance … no judicial review. He would have the power to mete out such punishment to farmers, to church ladies, and to you. At some point, not jut the insanity but the reality of this will percolate through to the public. Farmers know it well already – they have been living in terror of the USDA and FDA for years.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Pennsylvania has criminalized pies, and raided a church that tried to sell them at its annual fundraiser:
ROCHESTER, Pa. — On the first Friday of Lent, an elderly female parishioner of St. Cecilia Catholic Church began unwrapping pies at the church. That’s when the trouble started. A state inspector, there for an annual checkup on the church’s kitchen, spied the desserts. After it was determined that the pies were home-baked, the inspector decreed they couldn’t be sold.
“Everyone was devastated,” says Josie Reed, a 69-year-old former teacher known for her pumpkin and berry pies. Sold for $1 a slice, homemade pies have always been part of the Lenten fish-fry dinners at St. Cecilia’s, located in this tiny city near Pittsburgh. Similar dinners are held in church basements and other venues across the country this time of year….
The problem is the pies are illegal in Pennsylvania. Under the state’s food-safety code, facilities that provide food at four or more events in a year require at least a temporary eating and drinking license, and food has to be prepared in a state-inspected kitchen. Many churches have six fish fries a year, on Fridays during Lent. St. Cecilia’s has always complied with having its kitchen licensed, so food made there is fine to serve. But homemade goods don’t make the cut. (emphasis added)
One can see from this article three realities: real food is being eliminated, processed food is replacing it, and “criminality” is the concern.
Why is the state involved in this way at all? Why are licenses and fees required at all, no matter how many times the churches use their kitchen for events? These are not public places nor are they involved in interstate commerce. And “foods safety” here appears to be a violation of the separation of church and state. Why is the state taking control of anything inside this church?
What is without question, though, is that through “food safety,” people at this Pennsylvania church are being deprived of freedom. And it is so profound a freedom, it is taken entirely for granted. It is the freedom to choose what they eat. The state of Pennsylvania is saying very clearly that they do not have that right, in pies or in milk, or in any food stuffs the state decides to declare “unsafe.”
It may or may not be unsafe food. That is not what matters.
What matters is whether this democracy allows the state or federal government to take control the public’s choice of food. That IS unsafe.
The confusion of the church people involved at St. Cecilia’s is the experience of free people running up against the insanity of totalitarian control for the first time. They try to understand, they try to comply, but when it’s clear that “normal” and “good” have become illegal, they begin seeking ways around the law to protect what matters to them. It may only be pie but it embodies everything in their culture, in their way of life, in their rights as citizens. It is the picture of normal existence being forced into a corporate box.
Let the government label what is unsafe all they wish, so people can choose for themselves. But the state of Pennsylvania was backing no labeling and the US government through the FDA, has left all GMOs unlabeled, attacking farmers’ honest labeling of Monsanto’s original rBGH, threatened cherry farmers from even offering links to peer reviewed studies, and state-to-state Monsanto-backed laws are being passed to ban labeling.
The issue is freedom, not safety.
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” –Benjamin Franklin.
Freedom is about choice. And choice is based on KNOWING what is what.
But Pennsylvania and the US government have been limiting “knowing” and attempting to eliminate choice (freedom). They are aggressively attacking certain foods – farm foods or homemade food, those for which people KNOW the source personally (and even the methods are 100% clear), foods they CHOOSE specifically over commercial foods.
It was not by chance those women were selling homemade pie. It was what made the fish fry special.
Nor is it by chance that the government is spending tax dollars on actual attacks on local farmers raising pure food and small and community businesses and church events, but not on USDA inspectors of corporate facilities where there is actual contamination. Chirdon’s role in attacking Mark Nolt and this church serves a purpose. It sends a message.
This totalitarian use of “food safety” by government working on behalf of corporations, certainly threatens local farms and businesses, and it goes much further. It profoundly threatens community itself – its events and ethnic food and history and traditions and happiness and cohesiveness, which are intimately related to free involvement with food. The state has no right to be there at all.
They say, “as American as apple pie.”
Our freedom as Americans appears to have come down to homemade pie. And a glass of whatever milk we choose to wash it down. Our democracy appears to have come down to whether we remember and will defend our unlicensed, unhampered, un-infringed, un-monitored, un-surveilled, unregulated, un-criminalized, unlimited, full and free right to homemade pie and a glass of milk. Including seconds.
I asked the waiter, ‘Is this milk fresh?’ He said, ‘Lady, three hours ago it was grass.’” Phyllis Diller