I received this email today in response to an interview I gave recently about raw milk to “Food Manufacturing” online:

Farm fresh? All the rage? natural food craze? certified organic is a buzzword? You make the lifestyle of eating pure, unpesticide treated, unindustrialized, unprocessed food seem like a generational fad like acid washed denim or cabbage patch dolls. Those use words like you in your ridiculous article are afraid of the truth and just don’t want to know about it. So keep eating your corn feed beef, your pesticide-salads and your oreo cookies, you industrial eaters because you seem to not care about your bodies or your kids health or the future of the earth.

Actually, I get more than a few emails like this. Most do a bit better at spelling and punctuation, but nearly all are from raw milk proponents, producers or consumers (although there are a few from the anti-S 510 cabal). Some, but not all, have a level of passion that borders on violence. Perhaps not directed at me, but generally in the “do not tread on me” – “tea party” shouting that we have been subjected to over the last year.

Frankly, I was perplexed at the “yell fest” that passed for discussion of whether we should expand health care to the 40,000,000 of our fellow citizens without health insurance. I am shocked at how we scream at each other via email or blog comments about raw milk or honest differences about how food safety legislation should be modeled. It is like screaming at and belittling each other at the dinner table – albeit, a very large table.

What is with all this anger over food? I mean honestly, it seems like there are bigger fish to fry. What about the wars? Global warming? Energy policy?

But, folks are angry about their view of food – especially the proponents of raw milk (affectionately, “raw milkies”) and the anti-S 510 folks (affectionately, “organic tea baggers”). Both groups view themselves as victims of big government and big business bent on reducing them to servitude or extinction. They cannot see that perhaps, just perhaps, people who see the dangers of raw milk or the value of S 510, might simply have an honest disagreement with those that see raw milk as the nectar of the gods or S 510 as more than a method of lining the pockets of Monsanto. But, hey, that is just me.

So, does the yelling, threats and belittling of the anti raw milk/pro S 510 crowd actually work? Are some convinced that those that yell the loudest have the best arguments? Or, do some simply shy away from their positions after being the target of a nasty blog post or scathing email or comment? I think some do. I know I have been tempted to simply focus on other pressing issues surrounding food safety – there are many – and let folks guzzle raw milk to their heart’s content and let S 510 die a lingering death.

But, that is not my style. Even as a child when told to do A I usually did B. When the raw milk party calls me a tool of big dairy or an ambulance chaser, I come back with reasoned pros and cons of raw milk consumption, videos of raw milk consumers sickened and a website – Real Raw Milk Facts – dedicated to having a reasoned discussion about raw milk. I am also beginning to work of a raw milk retail sampling project to test its safety.

As for S 510, the nastier the emails from small producers who want little or no food safety regulation, the more money I donate to political campaigns, the more trips I take to DC, and the more often I fund victim visits to their favorite Senator.

And, to do the above, I hardly raise my voice. Well, once in awhile I do.

  • dog doctors

    Bill, thank you for all that you have done to improve food safety in the US and elevate debate to one of science and reason.
    We missed your presence at the AVMA this year

  • laura

    mr. marler, you are my hero.

  • Doc Mudd

    Thank you, Mr. Marler, for your dedication and perseverance.
    The nasty correspondence you receive does, at least, demonstrate that you’ve succeeded in broadcasting the findings of good science to a fringe element of food safety scofflaws who typically pride themselves on being tone-deaf. Your rare success is appreciated by many, many of us who too seldom accomplish much more than merely ‘preaching to the choir’.
    Keep fighting the good fight. From the Governor of Wisconsin to Wholefoods, you’re certainly making a difference. Now, let’s hope the U.S. Senate can respond to your urging and get effective food safety legislation passed this month.

  • John Munsell

    To use your term “honest disagreement”, that is precisely what I have towards S 510. I don’t yell, and don’t call 510 proponents nasty names. I don’t blame Monsanto. Also, I don’t drink raw milk, for obvious reasons. I’ve become acutely aware of how USDA has utilized its allegedly “science based” HACCP program to harass and intimidate small meat plants out of existence, while insulating the largest plants from accountability. While USDA considers itself to be the premier public health organization in America, it has misused its bastardized HACCP protocol to deregulate the largest meat plants, while hyper-regulating the smallest plants out of business. I respectfully suggest that S 510 will do the same to the produce industry. Who benefits from the removal of small agricultural entities? (1) Government regulatory agencies, who have fewer plants to inspect, saving payroll costs. (2) Big corporate Ag, who gain a bigger share of the pie. Furthermore, the biggest industry players are frequently multinational, providing them access to global food supplies, frequently at cheaper costs, since many other countries lack the environmental and labor safeguards mandated in America. A review of food recalls this century quickly reveals that the vast majority of recalled food emanated from the big corporations, not the small ones targetted by (a) USDA and (b) S 510. If my comments are printed on this blog, it would constitute proof that Bill Marler is amenable to open discussion from both sides. If my comments are not printed on the blog, it indicates an unwillingness to allow all sides to tactfully present their reasoned ideas. If indeed my comments are edited out, that would prove that I’ve been demonized by the pro-S 510 crowd, not because my ideas are irrational, but merely because I am opposed to S. 510. The dictionary defines a cabal as “A conspiratorial group”, or “A secret scheme”. I don’t qualify. Neither do the vast majority of folks who oppose S. 510. John Munsell

  • Doc Mudd

    Ah, yes…the inevitable conspiracy theory!
    Thanks, John, for illustrating the workings of that shopworn call to arms in any crusade against progress.
    The conspiracy theory has a variation in the popular ‘special interests’ accusation, as in; ‘Good Heavens, Congress is being assailed and seduced by special interests against broad-based support to compromise the public’s welfare’. Funny thing, we usually think of tobacco companies or oil companies or greedy Wall Street firms, but this time modernizaton of public food safety (with broad-based public support) is at stake and the scheming ‘special interests’ are self-described “small producers” and their all too eager activist handlers. Ironic, isn’t it?

  • Tim Lukens

    Hey Bill,
    You industrial eater?? ;-)
    Seems like I remember that in the not too distance past you paid some bills to get the book “Omnivores Dilemma” onto the WSU campus. That would make you, at least an honorary locavore, if not a full fledged one.

  • Elisabeth Hartline

    Having a way with words does not make you correct. I don’t have to scream or pound my fists to tell you that I disagree with you. S510 will work to further centralize our food system and many people (not all crazy hayseeds, thank you) believe that this is the worst legislative action in regards to food safety. Yes, I honestly believe that my local meat and vegetable providers deliver safer products. Yes, I believe that the uncooked milk coming from my own cow is perfectly safe. Yes, I believe that the FDA and USDA have a long way to go before they overcome their reputation for industrial-farming bias and corruption. I think I spell pretty well, too.

  • Lora

    I completely agree with what Elisabeth has to say. Unfortunately for most Americans, it’s the blowhards who are heard first simply because they are the loudest. That doesn’t make them right, necessarily.
    I think it’s time the USDA and the FDA undergo complete overhauls, if not with their personnel then with the ideaology that guides them. The “obvious reasons” for not drinking raw milk are increasingly arguments of the past, especially as more and more “tea-baggers” become more and more educated on how to consume purer foods. Living in Pennsylvania I am blessedly surrounded by farmers and ranchers who practice organic gardening and ranching, both of which provide the local consumers opportunities for honest food, not foodstuffs that have been irradiated, injected, altered, or otherwise modified so as to “protect” me from harm. Really? The more educated the consumer is the more “organic” this country is becoming. Pay attention: the raw and organic movements are not going away!