Capture Theory, Mad Cow, the Bush Administration, and What You Eat

Back when I did the adjunct professor thing, I used
this article as an example of capture theory.

The Department of Agriculture refused yesterday to allow a Kansas beef producer to test all of its cattle for mad cow disease, saying such sweeping tests were not scientifically warranted.

The producer, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wanted to use recently approved rapid tests so it could resume selling its fat-marbled black Angus beef to Japan, which banned American beef after a cow slaughtered in Washington State last December tested positive for mad cow. The company has complained that the ban is costing it $40,000 a day and forced it to lay off 50 employees.

Since December, Japan has demanded that producers who want to export there test each animal, as Japanese ranchers do. The American beef industry and the Bush administration have resisted, and negotiations have become increasingly tense.

Long story short… whatever the USDA said, the reason they refused to let Creekstone test all its beef at its own expense is that it would set a precedent that the big guys would feel obligated to follow.

So yesterday, when I read this post at Steve Benen’s place, my first thought was… why is Steve linking to old news? Isn’t there enough new news out there? What’s wrong with him?

But the article to which he links is from a couple days ago:

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease .

The Agriculture Department tests less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. But Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone tested its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive test, too.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. U.S. District Judge James Robertson noted that Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on and said the government didn’t have the authority to restrict it.

Disregarding the nonsensical “false positive” argument, what this tells you is this… the administration will side with profits for large meat companies over our lives.