Wildlife preservation? Agenda-driven ideas run amok

Several news releases wound up in my e-mailbox late last fall from my friends on the other side.

They announced a San Francisco “teach-in” entitled “Food Safety Gone Astray: The Misguided War on Wildlife.”

One of the press releases said, “The war on wildlife intensified after the FDA's overblown recall of all bagged and bunched spinach following the 2006 California spinach contamination, causing a backlash in the leafy greens industry” resulting in an “untenable position of removing wildlife habitat that in scientific, and actual fact, protects food safety.”

Yeah, right.

When I received the news release, I immediately recalled seeing a photograph of a lettuce field ready for harvest that the grower abandoned because there were piles of feral pig feces in many rows. The photo was shown at a meeting discussing the Leafy Green Agreement. Sorry to be so graphic.

Investigators implicated wild pigs in the spinach E. coli outbreak in 2006 that caused the deaths of three people and made over 200 people ill in the USA and Canada.

In the wake of that devastating outbreak, farmers began clearing wildlife habitat from around fields, but radical environmentalists objected to this and called for the teach-in, sponsored by a group called the Wild Farm Alliance.

The anti-society group got all the publicity it wanted, some from other agricultural publications. After recalling the photos of fecal covered fields of lettuce that had to be abandoned, I declined to cover it.

Farmers did not want to destroy wildlife habitat, but given the risk of another devastating E. coli outbreak, they had no choice.

Of course there were no commercial farmers among the speakers, but it was interesting to see who some of the speakers were.

The moderator was Dave Henson, executive director of The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) near Santa Rosa, Calif. OAEC is the outfit that bankrolled the county anti-biotech initiatives that failed several years ago.

Another was Andy Kimbrell, director of Center for Food Safety, the San Francisco Bay area outfit that was behind the temporary ban on Roundup Ready Alfalfa. His talk covered “genetic engineering, nanotechnology and cloning,” which has a lot to do with feral pigs in lettuce.

Another covered “the evidence linking the inappropriate use of antibiotics in sub-therapeutic doses as growth promoters in the industrial production of food animals in the United States,” — another important topic dealing with feral hogs.

Of course, this group says wildlife habitat around vegetable fields filter out pathogens. Yeah, right.

The farmer who opted not to harvest one single row of lettuce from the feral pig contaminated field was far more responsible than the people who garnered all the publicity from the wildlife preservation teach-in. The farmer could have opted to harvest rows where there were no fecal evidence, but he opted to destroy the entire field at enormous costs to protect the consumer.

I would far more trust the farmer to protect my health than this crowd. Agenda-motivated scientific conferences only confuse the public. They are totally irresponsible.

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