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Updates on the Raw Milk Front

May 20, 2010

By Rebecca Briggs

Wisconsin

When we went to press on the Summer issue of Biodynamics just a few weeks ago, it looked like Wisconsin’s governor would sign a bill passed by the state’s legislature that would legalize direct, farmer-to-consumer raw milk sales. In the meantime, however, a massive campaign by health professionals and the dairy industry prompted the governor to reconsider and veto the legislation:

I recognize that there are strong feelings on both sides of this matter, but on balance, I must side with the interests of public health and the safety of the dairy industry.

I am listening to the unanimous voice of public health professionals, including leading doctors at the Marshfield Clinic and Gundersen Lutheran Health System who have found the sale of raw milk to have potentially harmful health effects.

I also have to protect the safety of the dairy industry, which is critical to our state economy. We have worked successfully over the last seven years to modernize Wisconsin’s dairy industry. An outbreak of disease from the consumption of raw milk could harm our reputation for providing healthy dairy products, and damage the entire industry.

Massachusetts

Also in the meantime, Massachusetts has also become a locus of activity in the national debate on raw milk, where the state is looking at tightening its regulations on raw milk “buying clubs.” The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has some great videos from a recent raw milk rally held on the Boston Common.

Food Rights

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is bringing the issue of food freedom to the fore in a new lawsuit against the FDA challenging the constitutionality of the ban on interstate raw milk sales. The FDA states explicitly stated in its filed response that it does not believe in “food rights”:

“There is no ‘deeply rooted’ historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds.” [p. 26]

“Plaintiffs’ assertion of a ‘fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families’ is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.” [p. 26]

Our recent interview with David Gumpert, author of The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle over Food Rights, highlights some of the issues at stake.

[Food rights has] been turned into a civil rights issue by our own governmental authorities. I mean, they are very gradually forcing more and more foods to be processed in different ways — and foods that growing numbers of people want to be able to consume unprocessed. This includes things like apple cider and vegetable juice and almonds, and now it’s beginning to include meats and leafy greens that might be irradiated. Eventually it could be meats that are cloned, genetically modified food, and, to the extent that those kind of processes become common place, it becomes difficult or impossible to get the original unprocessed food.

However dispiriting these regulatory setbacks may appear, Gumpert suggests that all this public discussion and controversy is ultimately a positive sign.

I think the discussion is very positive. And I think all the organizing and all the protesting is very positive as well. It’s too bad that it has to happen, but it’s happening for a reason. It seems pretty clear that the public health communities, the medical communities, are going to fight a broadening of availability of raw milk. It does have to be a fight, unfortunately.

For more news and resources on raw milk, check our raw milk page.

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