Joanna Blythman: opportunist hack

So, there\’s an outbreak of e coli. Thus Ms. Blythman, our \”food writer\” decides to leap in with her prejudices:

With food scandals now arriving in a steady stream, we need to understand that by its very nature, our industrialised, globalised food system begets public health problems. It is geared to churning out vast volumes of food and raising productivity, but at the lowest cost. So farmers and growers are pushed to make savings by cutting corners and adopting intensive practices, which open up unprecedented risks that are graver all the time: everything from toxins from GM crops turning up in foetal blood, through sickly, cloned calves dying soon after birth, to the creation of more virulent superbugs.

Right, so, clearly more people must be being killed by this industrial food system than are killed by the previous, non-industrial food system then.

A small outfit producing a contaminated product will affect only small numbers of people; a giant one doing the same will hurt large numbers.

Quite true, but not the point. Which system, local or global, produces the most deaths from food poisoning?

But if we want our food to be truly safe, we must recognise that this can only be delivered by a radically different model of food and agriculture, one that is based on the largely untapped potential of small-scale, much more regional production and food distribution. We need a new system that no longer concentrates power and control of the food chain in the hands of a few global corporations and interest groups, at the expense of everyone else, one that puts diversity at its heart and respects the limits of the natural world, rather than trying to override them. Until then, expect more food scares. It\’s business as usual.

So, which is it?

We\’ll leave aside the real conceptual problem we have here, which is that small scale and local food systems don\’t in fact grow enough food to keep everyone from starving. For we can\’t actually count people dead from no food as people who have been poisoned by the food they didn\’t get.

Rightie ho. Deaths from food borne illnesses in this highly industrialised and mechanised agriculture of the US :

In the United States, using FoodNet data from 1996–1998, the CDCP estimated there were 76 million foodborne illnesses (26,000 cases for 100,000 inhabitants):[38]

  • 325,000 were hospitalized (111 per 100,000 inhabitants);
  • 5,000 people died (1.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.).

Similar deaths in the not highly industrialised and mechanised agricultures of the Third World:

Diarrhoea due to infection is widespread throughout the developing world. In Southeast Asia and Africa, diarrhoea is responsible for as much as 8.5% and 7.7% of all deaths respectively.

Scope of the Problem

Amongst the poor and especially in developing countries, diarrhoea is a major killer. In 1998, diarrhoea was estimated to have killed 2.2 million people, most of whom were under 5 years of age (WHO, 2000).

Hey, so what do you want? a 0.002% of dying of shit in your food each year or a near 100% liklihood of having to watch one of your children shit themselves to death?

Your choice.

Me, I\’ll take the industry thanks and use this opportunity to declare Ms. Blythman to be an opportunist hack.

16 thoughts on “Joanna Blythman: opportunist hack”

  1. one that is based on the largely untapped potential of small-scale

    I’m wondering what kind of dementia somebody must suffer to think that small-scale farming represents untapped potential. Did she miss the last 3,000 years?

  2. She isn’t very good at this game is she? She didn’t use the magic word that is the lefty clincher of all arguments, the one word that means they are so virtuous that nobody can argue with them without outing themselves as neocon capitalist Gaia killers in the pay of big business. That word being sustainability.

  3. The danger in the Green freakshow is that their marxist shite dovetails with the worldwide elite’s efforts to ensure they become even more elite while the rest of us are turned into techno-peasants at best.

    Without the political scum’s involvement the green bogies would be just a comical sideshow.

  4. I seem to recall that the widespread drinking of small beer in the Middle Ages was because the small-scale farming had to use human excrement as fertiliser and thus the water supply was so tainted it could not be safely drunk.

    Perhaps she doesn’t include the banning of artificial fertiliser in her Year Zero plan for us. Gotta love these Khmer Vert types.

  5. Can’t claim origin of the term: saw someone else use it in a blog comment. But it’s a meme I pass on.

  6. It makes you wonder if they actually want the poor to starve. It is absolute madness to believe that small scale non intensive farming can feed 6bn let alone in a few decades time 9bn!

  7. Hummm, I guess she doesnt understand the whole evolution thing then. And even if she is into intelligent design, God has a habit of throwing microbial curve balls too.

    Calling her an opportunist hack is far, far to kind.

  8. Taking the choice between a small company not being supervised by regulators “because only a few people will be affected if there is a problem” compared to a large one which will be continually monitored and will have hi tech methods to do so as well I know which one I prefer.

  9. It’s OK because under the Khmer Vert there will be no means of knowing when there are bugs in your food, therefore there will be none.

    You have to be impressed at how quickly this is getting sorted. 21 confirmed deaths to date, of a not particularly rare cause overall. Knowing a bit about medical reporting the true number is probably around 3 times that. So small that not long ago, we’d never have even noticed it, let alone have started looking for a single source of infection.

    Progress that would definitely be banned under the Khmer Vert.

  10. “Khmer Vert” is such a brilliant coinage that I pledge, Kay Tie (I know not whether ye be of the distaff persuasion or otherwise) that you shall not pay for a drink if I’m in the same pub. It’s so choice.

  11. And now, according to news, the source of the contamination appears to be one of those small operations the greenies think should provide everything we eat.

  12. Pingback: So it wasn’t Spanish cucumbers

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