CSPI’s Food Day: Celebration of sustainable and humane food practices, or something more sinister?

The Haute Pasture office subscribes to the Nutrition Action newsletter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and we were pleased to see that they are planning a Food Day celebration for October 24, 2011. The aim it to celebrate nutritious, responsibly-sourced food, and further the group’s goals of helping citizens make healthier choices, and helping policymakers improve rules regarding food safety and quality. CSPI strives to do the following, as described on the CSPI site:

  • To provide useful, objective information to the public and policymakers and to conduct research on food, alcohol, health, the environment, and other issues related to science and technology;
  • To represent the citizen’s interests before regulatory, judicial and legislative bodies on food, alcohol, health, the environment, and other issues; and
  • To ensure that science and technology are used for the public good and to encourage scientists to engage in public-interest activities.

After reading the mention of Food Day in Nutrition Action, we went online to see if we could find more information about it. CSPI’s Facebook page has a similar brief description of Food Day, as does the site of the company developing the Food Day logo. Most interesting to us, however, was a blog post titled “CSPI Shills for World Food Day–A Monsanto Operation.” This post seems flawed in that it links the CSPI Food Day to an unrelated World Food Day, but the argument was intriguing enough that we continued researching.

As long-time subscribers to Nutrition Action, we were surprised to read about an alleged link between CSPI and Monsanto. It turns out many bloggers have written about CSPI being backed by major food corporations and basically being a PR group for the FDA. The posts and comments we read were from the angle of anti-big-government rather than anti-agrigiants. Listed as evidence of the evil of CSPI were: the support of the executive director of CSPI, Michael Jacobson, for the S.510 Food Safety Bill; Jacobson’s description of controversial Food Safety Czar Michael Taylor as “… extremely knowledgeable and public-health oriented”; Jacobson’s support of genetically-m0dified crops; and CSPI’s work with Walmart to remove HFCS and decrease sodium in their products.

Politics aside, we can see how the stance of CSPI regarding the above items could conflict with the best interests of small farms. The food safety changes needed to protect consumers should be made at the level of the large agricultural corporation; a small local farm which can be policed by its own customers should be allowed to sell raw milk without the government getting in the way. But where should the line be drawn between protecting consumers from the carelessness of agrigiants, and protecting family farms from the long arm of the law?

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