Let Science Decide

Some things are immune to science, including ostensibly good things such as organic foods & traditional medicine, as well as so-called bad things such as silicon implants & high tension wires. Science tells us these good things are not particularly beneficial and the bad ones are not particularly harmful, but science changes few minds. Ignoring science can be deadly, however, as recent - preventable - e-coli outbreaks show.

We have a safe and inexpensive solution for many forms of food poisoning. We can simply irradiate food. Not doing this as a society is as foolish as drinking unpasteurized milk. Irradiation not only kills most of the harmful germs, it also preserves food longer thereby saving consumers money. No credible science has linked irradiation of food to any adverse health affects. In fact, we should be linking the LACK of this procedure to 325,000 cases of food poisoning serious enough to require hospitalization and 5,000 deaths each year.

The science is clear, but the rhetoric muddies the water. Using irradiation on food is something relatively new. New things always frighten the timorous and it is easy to mislead the credulous about new things.

In many countries around the world (and in the U.S. until recently) people just expected to get sick from the food they ate with monotonous regularity. I lived in S. America for a couple of years and having a mild or not so mild case of food poisoning was more common than the common cold. It was a regular part of life. In modern America, we have come to expect better, but we may have reached the limits of the possible through inspection & dilgence. (FDA spending on food safety has increased by 51% since 2001. Are we there yet?) We just cannot inspect and regulate ourselves to the level of safety we rightfully demand, but inspection coupled with the best new technology can.

Let science decide and do not listen to the luddite warnings. If you want safer food, this is the way to go.

Posted by Jack at December 18, 2006 6:13 PM
Comment #199703

“Let science decide”

As much as I love the sound of that, it begs the question of where the credibility line is drawn. The biggest problem with new information is that it is easily mis-interpreted and credibility is always an easy avenue of attack. Do we give the food industry a wide berth to explore technology with human subjects? When they miss something (which is innevitable), then what? Will the massive liability stifle the industry as a whole?

I don’t know Jack, it just doesn’t seem all that well thought out on the policy level. I profess no opinion about “irradiation” but I can say that if the FDA approves it, they have a decent track record of being right. Otherwise, I’m timid of being a lab rat for the food industry. I’d need some good convincing over a long period of time to be comfortable. Thats just how it is. This is our food we’re talking about afterall, and at risk of being branded a softy, I admit that I would much prefer to go through life without stomach cramping and yack attacks. It may be a part of life in some places, but I want it out of mine.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 18, 2006 6:32 PM
Comment #199706


Now you know that the far left will scream about this. But you are right on track. I have a childhood friend who works at Lawrence Livermore Lab who told me two years ago that there were less overall health problems resulting from irradiation than from pasteurization.

so lets take a vote:

I would rather take the risk of irradiation, I don’t mind losing a few vitamins and enzymes.

I would rather take the risk of my food tainted by someone evil.

I would rather discuss it for 10 years while we decide why the mice gleaning leftovers from the irradiation machine died of cancer.

Posted by: scottie at December 18, 2006 6:45 PM
Comment #199707


The links are to the CDC, which also has a fairly good reputation for being unbiased.

Irradiation has been at the FDA for approval as an “additive” since 1999. Pressure groups are keeping a decision from being made.

In that time roughly 35,000 people have died of food poisioning and 2,275,000 have been to hospital. What kinds of lab rats are these people?

BTW - most of the food problems go undetected. When you feel a little “under the weather” or have a little case of “stomach flu” you might consider last night’s supper.

The problem may be set to become even worse, as people eat more raw and organic food.

Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 6:51 PM
Comment #199708

Actually, scottie, I would expect the right to scream about it, too. Who pays for it? Does the Fed force food producers to irradiate food? I thought you guys hated government regulation.

As far as irradiation itself or the government mandating it, I don’t have an opinion yet.

Posted by: Trent at December 18, 2006 6:52 PM
Comment #199709

I’m with Jack on this one. irradiated food is not only safe it is tested. NASA, the military and hospitals have been doing it for decades. I say we go further and irradiate our waste and use it as fertilizer.

Posted by: 037 at December 18, 2006 6:55 PM
Comment #199712


Seriously? You responded to what I wrote with THAT? I specifically reserved all judgement on irradiation. I really don’t understand your responses sometimes. You either completely misunderstand me, or you are just avoiding the real points.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 18, 2006 7:01 PM
Comment #199713


re: raw foods - Less folks cooking a food is all the more reason to be more careful before selling it, right? The problem with your 35,000 number is there is no way to meaningfully compare it with anything else. We don’t know how many would have died under a different system.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 18, 2006 7:05 PM
Comment #199716

Well I for one am for fresh food, the fresher the better. I’m prepared to pay for it, and happy to cook it property. One thing I don’t want is industry messing with my food for their convenience. As far as I’m concerned, they can irradiate food all they like, or do whatever they want in processing it. Just as long as there’s a big bright label saying “Irradiated Food” Now, what do you guys think? If the consumer knows that their food has been tampered with, and they have a choice on the shelves, irradiated or natural, which do you reckon they’ll choose? I know which one I’ll go for. And I will respect the decision made by those who take the other option. I don’t trust the food business to do what’s right for me and my family. So if they’re doing something to our food, I want to know about it, and I want the choice to opt out.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 18, 2006 7:32 PM
Comment #199717

The food industry has also given us transfat. I beleive the FDA and the CDC until recently didnt give a rats ass about the damagae transfat has done and is doing to the American people. The FDA until the Bush administration could be trusted, Now they cant seem to do things right, must be a fox guarding the chickens situation. This irradtion may be a good thing but isnt it to soon to tell? When there is a responsibile administration leading the way I may be in favor of listening to the feds on this issue, until then its hard to trust them with the truth and with our health. We are heading to the South Americianization of this Country quick enough, judging by the recent bouts of food poisioning in the news. Do you wonder why it is all of a sudden? I would check to see what regulations have been discarded either as a favor to the food industry or in an attempt to set the American people up for the irradition thing, after all this administration does have a history of fearmongering as a tatic to get us to comply with their agenda.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 18, 2006 7:51 PM
Comment #199721

Jack, your position on this appears to me to be a part of the great march toward divorcing ourselves from nature and natural ways and limits of doing things. Instead of clean food handling, you would choose to irradiate to allow us to be unclean in our handling of food without consequence. It stems from the assumption that nature should only limit other species, but never humans, and that humans should treat nature as just another set of gizmos to tinker with and test, form and mold to our imaginative wishes and whims, needs, and above all, to force it to support our ever growing over population of the planet.

Your position carries underlying assumptions I just can’t agree with, and therefore, I cannot agree with your conclusion based on them.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 8:38 PM
Comment #199722


The FDA has a good record of avoiding problems, but sometimes at the cost of not approving good products.

I still do not understand your point if I am not addressing it. My contention is that science has proven beyond a reasonable doubt the irradiation will save lives. The time for reserving judgment is passed.

Re my 35,000 numbers - those are the people who died from food poisoning. Irradiation kills 99% of bad bacteria. Yes, IF they had cooked their food all the way through and there was no contamination along the way, irradiation would have no benefit. It is just that the 35,000 dead and 2 million plus sick indicates these things do not happen.


I am not advocating a government mandate. Just make it possible and educate the people.


My carton of milk says “Grade A Pasteurized” I have no problem with having the same sort of label on irradiated food, i.e. “Grade A Irradiated”. I would object to the bright “warning”. We do not warn people about pasteurization. It would be better to have the warning about those NOT irradiated.

I think early on many people will opt for the non-irradiated product. That is their business. Just as I do not care if you drink unpasteurized milk. After they get more used to the product, the smart people will begin to demand it.


You are the one who is fear mongering by your unsubstantiated assertion that the problem is getting worse. I am just telling you that we have a chance to substantially reduce a long term problem and have our food stay fresher longer w/o as many chemical additives. The only thing keeping us from taking the simple step is an unscientific fear of new technology.

That is why I chose that title for this article.

Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 8:41 PM
Comment #199723


If your child cuts his hand, do you put on disinfectant? How about anti-biotics when you get a serious strep?

“Nature” would let us live around 35 years and would kill most of our children before they could talk. Nature makes most of us myoptic. The natural human life is nasty, brutal and short with rickets, malnutrition, fleas and vermin accompanying you your all the brief years of your life. I do not want to be natural in all things.

If I can irradiate a few nefarious germs out of existence, that makes me happy.

Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 8:52 PM
Comment #199724

Why irradiate when providing bathroom facilities to illegal immigrants in the fields and paying them enough to observe good hygiene while handling our food, would take care of the problem, and many others as well, Jack?

An ounce of prevention is worth not having to create an entirely new industry like food irradiation.

That’s the problem I have with your philosophy, Jack. If we can’t control the hygiene in handling imported food, we should not import it. I am sure market forces would eventually clean up the handling of the food we rejected for unsafe handling issues. You believe in market forces, right? They have natural and artificial rules too!

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 9:01 PM
Comment #199725

Consider this:

hypodermic needles
surgical supplies
transfusion sets
kidney transplant kits
burn ointment
enzymes (those fragile little molecules)
infant bottles
wine corks
sanitary napkins
most food served in the army
all food served on the space shuttle
band aids
milk cartons
contact lens solution

In 1958 the FDA pronounced irradiation an additive. You are not adding a thing. Irradiation is a process like so many others. One more tool to help us clean food, it is no more unnatural then cooking food. Ever see a “creature of nature” do that? Anyone with a bit of knowledge about nuclear medicine knows irradiation is harmless. And don’t think Agra-business is pushing this as a solution. This stuff ain’t cheap.

Posted by: 037 at December 18, 2006 9:04 PM
Comment #199728

Was a time, 037, when you could drink water from American streams, rivers and lakes. No more. Was a time when the air was unoffensive to asthma sufferers except for pollination seasons, no longer. Was a time when America was independent and self-sufficient, no longer. Was a time when foods were grown locally and food producers would be out of business over night for producing and selling bad food. No longer.

There is a place for irradiation in most of the items you list above. That is not the underlying issue. Having the ability to respond efficiently, responsibly, and accountably is the underlying issue. Irradiating our foods will only provide a false sense that hygiene around food is no longer a concern. I assure you, it is, and will always be. As Jack said, irradiation only kills MOST bacteria and viruses. NOT ALL!

Proper hygienic handling of food is the only safe way - which is also the natural way which has served all species on this planet quite well for a couple billion years.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 9:15 PM
Comment #199729


What is the issue here? Googling a few minutes showed me that many foods are already approved for irradiation. Are you arguing for an expedited process in approving more foods? Arguing that the public shouldn’t fear irradiated foods? Arguing that more food producers should irradiate? You’ve already said you are not arguing for government mandates. Are you arguing for government action at all?

Posted by: Trent at December 18, 2006 9:17 PM
Comment #199730

“Why irradiate when providing bathroom facilities to illegal immigrants in the fields and paying them enough to observe good hygiene while handling our food, would take care of the problem,”

How does hand washing help with a trichinella worm buried under 1/4 inch of pork flesh??

Posted by: 037 at December 18, 2006 9:20 PM
Comment #199731

David R.,

I truly do not understand your position. I use a dishwashing machine; it cleans dishes in hotter water than I can tolerate. We use antibiotics to knock out nasty bugs. We’ve wiped out nasty diseases through vaccines. How is irradiation fundamentally different? As far as I can see, it’s just another tool to prevent illness.

I think there should be labels on irradiated foods because I think the public should be informed, but not scare labels.

Posted by: Trent at December 18, 2006 9:25 PM
Comment #199732

037, it doesn’t. That’s why the time honored cooking of pork before eating has survived centuries in all cultures that eat the animal.

No problema. No irradiation needed which would only kill it the same as cooking it does. Why create an industry to irradiate when cooking would still be required anyway and is just as effective?

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 9:28 PM
Comment #199734

I dunno, David. I tend to overcook pork because of a perhaps irrational fear of trichinosis (sp?).

At any rate, sure, you can say that if cooked properly food isn’t dangerous, but the fact is, there are many deaths from food poisoning every year.

Anyway, what are you arguing? That food producers should not be allowed to irradiate? I don’t mean to pick on you; I also asked JAck to clarify his argument in terms of action.

Posted by: Trent at December 18, 2006 9:32 PM
Comment #199735

The main reason the food industry wants to irradiate food is shelf-life. The longer the shelf-life is, the more opportunity to sell the product at top dollar. Not that this is a bad concept, as long as the industry doesn’t ignore or down play possible or probable negative factors.

The claims of benefits to public safety make a great selling point but they are exaggerated. Just because our food is irradiated, it doesn’t mean that the food won’t come into contact with harmful bacteria afterwards or that safe preparation practices won’t be ignored. It does not protect our food from possible intentional contamination as was suggested by scottie.

Posted by: jlw at December 18, 2006 9:33 PM
Comment #199736

Trent, sounds like a reasonable approach, so long as irradiation does not lead to less hygienic handling of food by growers, distributors, and consumers.

There is no substitute for safe food handling practices, because, in the end, some bacteria, algae, or virus will be immune to the irradiation, and then those who don’t bother with hygienic handling of food will be ill or dead due to their dependence on irradiation.

I am not opposed to science, nor irradiation as a method of dealing with certain problems. I do oppose the inevitably dangerous proposal to become ever more dependent on technology as a substitute for responsible, accountable behavior.

I do oppose using technology to support ever more billions of human beings on this planet in ever more dependent and lower quality standards. Poverty in the world is huge, epidemics and torn apart families are at all time highs. Technology is not the answer to overpopulation, irresponsible behavior as individuals or as a species, nor is technology the answer to the vicious cycle of dependency our species is lurching toward in every manner and aspect.

As a philosophical matter, independence is a concept losing currency in our ever more technologized existence. It will be our undoing if we don’t begin to think of ways to reverse this philosophy that technology (and its intrinsic breeding of dependency) is a healthy acceptable concept.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 9:37 PM
Comment #199738

David R. Remer et al

Was a time we died of scurvy, chichen pox, polio, trichinella, malaria, and staph. I don’t dissagree with what you say. I eat all my veggies raw. And I get lots from a co-op/farm near work. I believe in living simplely. I advocate union labor and shopping locally. But on the substance Jack, in my view, is not wrong. Irradiation in and of itself is not harmful to the individual.
Lets not stop progress because we are too lazy to learn the science.

Posted by: 037 at December 18, 2006 9:46 PM
Comment #199737


There was never a time like that in most of America. It is just that in early America they had imprecise names for all those water borne diseases and when people just up and croaked they just called it a fever.

It wasn’t any better among the natives. Scouts usually found the native villages by the smell and trail of garbage.

The only thing that protected populations in those days was thin populations. Any time you got a lot of people together in a town, the died like flies (or maybe like people).

The air and water in our country today is cleaner than at any time in our lives. Food poisoning used to be very much more common than it is today. The good old day were just old, not good.

Animals and man in a state of nature suffer an appalling death rate. We could remain healthy until the day we died if we died young and as the result of the little things that killed pre-industrial people. I do not want to live like that. Thank God for civilization.


I want Americans to accept irradiation the way we accept pasteurization and the food can be marked in just the same way.

Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 9:46 PM
Comment #199739

Also, I don’t buy the philosophy that science is inherently good. Science is a disciplined activity of inquiry. It has no philosophical, ethical, or moral underpinnings, especially when technology is driven by corporatism’s profit motive to the exclusion of all other factors.

Science is a tool. It can yield highly destructive or highly beneficial results. And extreme unintended consequences. Read the Shelley’s book Frankenstein, from the philosophical perspective it was written from. Or observe Chernobyl’s wasteland, or the AIDS scourge in Africa and S.E. Asia now paralleling the black plague of Medieval times.

Science and technology can prevent, and cause all these events. We should be careful in its exercise and use, preserve our ability to live independently of it, if necessary.

I suspect terrorists are going to help millions understand what I am talking about before too long.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 9:49 PM
Comment #199740

Jack, the good old days were between the time of discoveries made by Pasteur and the 1960’s. We have only understood microbiology for just over a 100 years.

But, people did cook pork, or refuse to eat it, without having to understand microbiology. Evolution taught our species traditions and cultural ways that largely protected the species. Most Americans today do not even know what those were. That is a dependency on technology that is very dangerous.

Flu pandemics have occured many times in our evolution. But it never threatened our species. There were time and distance barriers that prevented its transmission to large cross numbers of our species.

Today, we create microorganisms that could wipe our species off the planet. Science is a very double edged sword. Wisdom knows how to balance it. Blind faith and greed and dependence upon it does not.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 9:58 PM
Comment #199741

To say science is not good or bad is correct. Science is a way of gaining information. Nothing more, nothing less. It is a process, not and end in itself. So lets ask, when it comes to irradiation what does the science say? What do we know? and what is the evidence upon which we are reaching our conclusions?

As far as Chernobyl, I am not sure of the point.
Radiation in the atmoshpere? Hell, what do you think that big ball in the sky is shooting at you? Seriously we get a hell of a lot more radiation from nuclear bomb tests.

Oh, and science with no philosophical underpinnings? I guess aristotle the father of the “scientific method” wasn’t a philosopher?

Posted by: 037 at December 18, 2006 10:04 PM
Comment #199742

“Evolution taught our species traditions and cultural ways that largely protected the species”

David, Evolution is defined by biologists as a change in the relative frequency of genes over time.

1. How did evolution teach us traditions and culture.
2. If we “learn from our genes” why is eugenics, the belief that some people are genetically better, wrong?

Posted by: 037 at December 18, 2006 10:16 PM
Comment #199744

Jack, When you see such figures as 325k ill/5k dead as a reason for irradiated food when irradiated food would only solve say 5 to 10 percent of the problem it sounds like at least an exaggeration.
What kind of science are we talking about? The last I knew the studies had only tested irradiated food on people for 15 weeks, hardly long term. Never on young children. Yet science has proven it safe for humans to eat irradiated foods? Thats like the space shuttle food- so what, how long do you stay on the shuttle. If irradiation of food causes free radicals and alters the food what is gained?
Is this science like the earth is 6k years old science or what?

Posted by: j2t2 at December 18, 2006 10:22 PM
Comment #199745

037, oh, you know he was speaking loosely. We talk of practices evolving and societies evolving etc.

Science does have a philosophic underpining. It assumes that nature/reality is not arbitrary and therefore can be understood. Aristotle was the great observer. The practice of science is a techne, true, but it assumes episteme.

David, I largely agree with your point though it doesn’t make me too upset over irradiation or vaccines or any one particular technology. I wonder, though, if, just a little bit, you are falling prey to the “old oaken bucket” fantasy.

Posted by: Trent at December 18, 2006 10:26 PM
Comment #199747


According to that great philospher Katherine Hepburn in “African Queen”, “Nature is what we were put on earth to rise above.”

Today we are healthier than ever. We eat better and have better medical care. Go to an old graveyard and read the headstones. Count the children who never reached puberty and count the number of “old” people who made it to 60. These people ate nothing but organic food. They drank well water uncontaminated by pesticides. They lived a simple life, but they did not live long or very well.

Archeologist who dig up the bones find them scared by various diseases we no longer even think about.

I can understand you point about not wanting to stray to far from the natural life, but the natural life does not mean that we are the thrall of nature.

Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 10:38 PM
Comment #199748


Whether or not you intend, you are using the precautionary principle. Science can find nothing wrong with irradiated food, but of course nothing in science is 100% certain. We can wait several generations to check it out. But you know if we had the precautionary priciple in those good old days, we would never have allowed electricity or penicillin.

The precautionary principle is unscientific and so cannot be disproven by any scientific method.

Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 10:44 PM
Comment #199751

I don’t know much about irradiating food. Almost sounds like some kind of shooting it with radiation to me.
But I do know that I grew up drinking raw milk, eating organic food, and drinking untreated water. So did everyone else around here. I don’t remember one person getting sick or dieing from it. But I do remember about 30 of us getting powerfully sick from the sloperized milk served at school.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m for a safe food supply. But I sometimes wonder of all the safety measures aint part of the problem.

Posted by: Ron Brown at December 18, 2006 11:51 PM
Comment #199754

Jack, are you saying that the precautionary principle should not be applied to the field of food irradiation? We see from example that irradiation is safe for things we dont eat but until studies are performed that can reasonably determine that free radicals are good for the human body, that taking nutrients and vitamins from the food in an attempt to save us from food poisoning is a net benefit, then what is the rush to irradiate food. Certainly you would not dare to equate electricity and penicillin with food irridation in terms of importance to the world we live in.
The proactionary principle you seem to advocate also has drawbacks and in this case may be impractical. Afterall what are you going to do when the bacteria you are radiating grow immune to the radiation and re-enter the food supply?

Solve the free radical problem, leave the vitamins in the food then come back to the table with irradiated food. Untill then develop high pressure haet or some other technology that will solve the problem without causing a problem.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 19, 2006 12:09 AM
Comment #199755

The main argument against irradiation of food is that it takes us another step in the wrong direction.

What will happen to the pasturization process and to pasturization facilities if irradiation is approved?

What will we have to do if we ever have to return to pasturization?

Will there come a time when the law states that all food must be irradiated?

If so, what effect would that have on small farmers?

What affect would such a law have on local farmers markets and road side sales of produce?

Many on the right argue that, for many reasons, the concentration of power into a strong central government is very bad. Many of those same people will also argue that the concentration of the delivery of essential goods and services into the hands of a few corporate entities is very good for many reasons, especially efficiency. I do not believe that over the long run and indeed, in some cases even today, that this is or will be true. In fact, I think that over the long run, it will be very harmful and costly to our society. For example, near where I live, one side of a valley is supplied with electricty by a large corporation. the other side of the valley is supplied by a small rural electric CoOp. The small CoOp provides better service with less interruption and shorter periods of time during interruptions in service at less cost to the consumer than the large corporation.

On another thread discussion about alternative energy, it was suggested that alternative energy methods could be used by individuals to remove themselves from the grid. Jack’s reply was something to the effect that yes one could get off the grid if they wanted to live like the Visigoths. In my opinion, we run a greater risk of living a Visigoth lifestyle by becoming ever more dependent on centralized delivery of essential goods and services such as food and electricity.

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 12:17 AM
Comment #199761

Our efforts should be prevention of contamination. You know the old phrase.

Posted by: womanmarine at December 19, 2006 1:43 AM
Comment #199766

Jack said: “The precautionary principle is unscientific and so cannot be disproven by any scientific method.”

That’s why common sense is still a valued commodity, Jack. It fills in the gaps where science has no proof one way or another.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 19, 2006 4:16 AM
Comment #199767

Jack said: “Nature is what we were put on earth to rise above.”

That comes from Victorian era philosophy Jack, that said out of sight, out of mind; Children should be seen and not heard, Black people are only 3/5 of a human being, and produced the books The Naked Ape, and Lord of the Flies. Both reflecting a very elementary speculation into the nature of the human mind.

We know far more than that now.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 19, 2006 4:23 AM
Comment #199768

Jack, so much of science on the run today is statistical and probablistic backed by impatient demands for early returns on investment. Your arguments remind me of Andrew Lang’s (1844-1912) verbage: “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts…for support rather than illumination.”

Where causality can be empirically established, one can trust corroborated science. But in these times, where only correlations are demonstrable, precautionary steps and warnings are highly recommended as Andrew Lang warns.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 19, 2006 4:33 AM
Comment #199770

As jlw said above, the rationale for irradiation of food is the extension of shelf life, to enhance the profits of corporations. 037 above spoke of irradiation of various other products without apparent harm.

The problem for me is that all too often corporations want to manipulate our foods for their benefit, and they will use “sceintific methods” to do so. The problem for me with science, is that it is not the absolute truth. It is literally “knowledge”, or in other words, as much as we know up to the present. Now of course that has served mankind massively in the past and I am not a troglodytic luddite. However, when science is being pushed by those with a vested interest to manipulate our foods, then I get nervous. I think of things like BSE, CjD for example, which not only the food industry told us were not a risk, but even politicians were shown feeding their children burgers on TV to drive home the point. The reason this problem arose was because animal feed manufacturers introduced bonemeal from rendered animals into the foodstuffs of their fellow animals, who happened to be vegetarians! This practice was about producing more profit, not more desirable product. We all know that the primary motivation of businesses is profitablity, and in general I have no problem with that, as long as short cuts are not taken to the detriment of the consumer.

We really don’t know the long term effects of eating irradiated foods. Now when it comes to my food, i’m a raving conservative. If in doubt, leave it out!

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 19, 2006 4:55 AM
Comment #199771

Paul, quite right. Check out this from a breaking NY Times story entitled: Playing Down the Risks of a Drug.

It was bad enough when studies showed that the newest and most heavily promoted drugs for treating schizophrenia weren’t worth their high cost. Now the disturbing tale of their excessive use has taken a tawdry turn with revelations that Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical giant, has consistently played down the risks of its best-selling antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa, and has promoted it for unapproved uses.
Posted by: David R. Remer at December 19, 2006 5:09 AM
Comment #199774


While I agree with your cautionary approach to life, Jack makes a common sense balance here. What is the downside of irradiating food? None. Not one iota of evidence has been produced showing that there is a downside.

Irrational fear is the more likely culprit here. Radiation is a nebulous word associated with the death and destruction seen in Japan. Is has little relationship to irradiating food to sanitize it, but it has great emotional impact.

Caution is a worthwhile trait, and temerity can also be dangerous in the wrong situation. Life is risk.

I sometimes think that we try to sometimes live in a too sanitized enviroment. We become vunerable, much like the Native Americans were to small pox, in such an enviroment. I don’t think using radiation to clean mass produced food applies here though. It is the mass production and distribution that creates the danger, radiation is a common sense means to overcome that risk.

If we kill off half the world population, perhaps we could return to pastoral small scale food production. Who gets to choose who dies? The “good old days” shant come again. I wonder why Americans born after WWII are taller?

Posted by: gergle at December 19, 2006 6:11 AM
Comment #199777

This is not a technical problem, to which irradiation is the only solution. It is a problem that has been born of the way that agribusiness operates. The big factory farms and feedlots create truly nasty conditions for their livestock that facilitate the spread of disease. This unhealthy environment for the animals, which limits mobility and prevents exercise, also makes the animals more sickly, which the people running these feedlots respond to by pumping them full of hormones and antibiotics, which we end up consuming on our end.

The image of cows roaming freely over the range, of chickens scurrying about is mostly just nostalgic memory. So is being able to eat anything with raw eggs or less than well-done meat withou signing a waiver.

The Epidemiology of this is that the current factory farm system, as regulations allow it now is a breeding ground for these diseases, which allow pathogends like E.Coli, Salmonella, and others run rampant in our food supply.

And you’re saying we ought to let agribusiness operate irradiating technology, given how responsible it’s been with everything else?

Jack, this is not a technical problem to which Irradiation is the only sensible solution. It’s a problem of business practices, to which irradiation is a band-aid.

You should also consider the security implications of distributing radioactive isotopes across the nation to all the meatpacking and processing plants. That is precisely the kind of material that people would steal for the sake of making a dirty bomb.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 8:12 AM
Comment #199778

I dont understand why people seem to think its all win win for irradiating food. Irradiation changes the molecules of the food. Free Radicals are born from this change of molecules. Free radicals can cause problems to the human being that has them in their system.Free radicals can cause toxic chemicals to be formed in the food. Irradiation affects the vitamins content of the food. Should these problems not be dealt with?

Posted by: j2t2 at December 19, 2006 9:09 AM
Comment #199779


There also was a time when our bodies naturaly created anti-bodies that fought off infections.

Just how much harm is this disinfectant craze doing to us?

Posted by: Rocky at December 19, 2006 9:58 AM
Comment #199785

Have no fear Jack, many people had the same feelings about immunizations when they first came out (some of us still do) but, like good little world cititzens, they learned to accept them without question. The same will happen with irradiation of foods.

Posted by: kctim at December 19, 2006 10:49 AM
Comment #199786


I think the precautionary principle is a kind of Gnosticism. We should be careful with any new (or old) technology and work out its benefits and risks as best we can. When we have done as much as we can, and have found nothing, we are done. The precautionary principle states that unless you know everything, you can do nothing. It is one of those things that sounds like wisdom but is really pretty stupid. We should dispense with the precautionary principle in general and stick to the scientific method.

You also understand that no problem is ever solved. Re organizes becoming immune to radiation; you could say the same about cooking or boiling. Just because something may not work always and forever does not mean we should not use it where we can.

Irradiation doesn’t cause ANY significant problem that anybody has been able to identify with credible science. It is very similar to pasteurization of milk. There are people who oppose pasteurization. Of course, unless they live on a farm and have their own cows, they probably do not do it for very long.


Irradiation will replace pasteurization only if it works better. Even then, it probably will not replace it outright. People tend to hang on to traditional systems.

Re technology - As a society we already cannot live w/o technologies developed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of us would be dead within months if we had to go back even to the conditions of 1900. We cannot feed the world population w/o agricultural technologies and inorganic fertilizers. That train has left the station. As an individual, you can go back to nature, but society cannot.


As I wrote before, the problem of food poisoning is not growing. In fact, our regulation and practices have reduced it in recent years. There is a technical floor, however. At some point, additional care will not result in better results at this level of technology. We need to move to a higher level.

This is like pasteurization. It IS possible to use unpasteurized milk product safely, but it is expensive and difficult. It also leads to a lot of spoilage and risk. Some day soon we will look at irradiation the same way we see pasteurization.

I lived in a right across from an area of organic farms in Poland. The people used the traditional methods, very pictureque but not particularly sanitary. In the old days, people got food poisioning all the time. It just didn’t make the papers until it became sufficiently rare to be news.

re the dirty bomb, you can find those sorts of things in any dentist office. It is a potential danger, but not much of one.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 11:07 AM
Comment #199789


After reading a small amount, irradiation seems prudent. But I’m all for detailed labels. I’m not sure what the hold-up is in implimenting this technique if there are such notable and tangable benefits to be immediately reaped. I see no reason why we should restrict the practice. But I’m also a firm believer in giving people the choice. There is always the risk that a scary rumor will scare some people away, but they can be won over in time. It always takes time to build a good reputation. And being good over time in comparison to other goods is how any trademark or certification mark becomes reliable in the eyes of consumers. Not because some scientific study draws a conclusion.

So, I’m still confused as to what the problem is? Jack, are you concerned that consumers are not accepting the technique, that the industry is not implimenting it fast enough, or what?

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 19, 2006 11:55 AM
Comment #199791


One problem is that the FDA has classified it as an “additive” but not approved it as an additive for foods other than some meats. This is probably a minor issue. The greater issue is that irradiation has enemies and they manage to scare people. In the long run, we will win this battle, but the luddites can fight a delaying action for many years.

What will opponents do? They will try to put onerous requirements on irradiation. I am with you re labelling. But the label should not be a bright warning designed to scare off the timid. The luddites will also boycott sales and generally make trouble. It is the typical special interest agitprop. Know it when you see it and ridicule those who do it; that is all I ask.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 12:35 PM
Comment #199792
The air and water in our country today is cleaner than at any time in our lives….Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 09:46 PM
You had a decent argument until that nonsense. Why does the (r)wing always resort to lies, misdirection, and hyperbole when faced with an inconvienient perspective? Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 19, 2006 12:39 PM
Comment #199793

You are correct that there are problems with which the way agri-business is handled. Yes, we need to address these problems. Irradiation is not just a band-aid, it is, if implemented on a large scale, a means to greatly reduce the chance of random errors causing massive morbidity and mortality.

As to j2t2’s comment about free radicals, Huh?
Free radicals exist in things quite “natural” There is no evidence to what you claim. Just because it’s —-Oooo— scary radiation—-does not mean that there is any, at all, chance of some sort of gentic mutation or cancer risk to the end user. That is utter nonsense that has nothing to do with reality.

The Sun irradiates food every day, as well as us.
Assuming Radiation is always bad, it would follow that extinguishing the Sun would be good for us,too. Right?

Posted by: gergle at December 19, 2006 12:41 PM
Comment #199794

Read this book. It’s truly food for thought on the issue. You assume that progress has brought problems of sanitation to as much of an end as possible. Truth is, technology, as currently used by agribusiness, has made it worse, since agribusiness is ignoring critical problems in what effects the technology, the breeding and the other aspects of dealing with livestock.

You should also read this book for a different approach on things. In Animals in Translation Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson both do a good job of illuminating some of the problems in today’s approach to animals and livestock.

Of particular interest in that book, besides their commentary on the consequences of excessively breeding for certain qualities in both pets and livestock, is Grandin’s system of control points which she employs in analyzing the fitness of slaughterhouses in how they process the cattle. Her system, I think, would greatly appeal to you, given that it eschews the complicated reams of unmanageable rules and regulations as to how things can be designed and done, in favor of a few basic signs.

I think we could create such a control point system to improve the cleanliness and design of the farms that produce our food, but there would have to be a stick to accompany that carrot.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 1:09 PM
Comment #199795

Jack: When we are all dependent on the corporations for our survival, we will never have to worry about tyranny ever again because we won’t be able to do anything about it anyway.

It really doesn’t matter how big or how efficient agribusiness gets. sooner or later a natural disaster or more likely, a human induced event is going to cause a large depopulation of humans. When those who benefit the most from the wealth of this planet come to the conclusion that the human population has reached a point where their quality of live is in jeopardy, some of them, perhaps just one of them, will decide that something must be done. They will have no problem rationalizing that it is for the best of all who survive.

Of course, the wealthy are just one group who may be interested in such a product. Ongoing research is concentrating on developing a hemoragic plague combined with a virulent strain of flu. The goal is an airborne hemoragic plague with a 50 to 90% kill rate. If the radical Islamic movement could get their hands on such a plague, they would consider it a gift from God and they will use it indiscriminately. At least the wealthy will want the vacine to innoculate a lot of people that they are dependent on.

I know, I shouldn’t worry about things like this, I should just be happy.

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 1:10 PM
Comment #199796

Wrong part of the Electromagnetic spectrum. We’re talking X-Ray’s and Gamma Rays here. It’d have to be that becaus the Alpha and the Beta would just bounce off the surface of the Carcass.

The whole point of irradiation is that ionizing radiation kills germs and pests by degrading their genes and proteins. The meat and vegetables, already being dead, don’t mind this. It does, however, come at the consequence of reduced nutritional value, as many of the complex molecules, vitamins, and other nutrients get cracked too.

Additionally, you have to count on this system working perfectly in order to sterilize the food. The false sense of security this creates could lead to laxness in the process up to that point, which means if somebody screws up the irradiating process, people are going to get hit with the foodborne illnesses.

The use of radioactive isotopes brings in its own dangers that the use of cleaner facilities and practices beforehand would obviate the need for. I’d just as soon we use a nice, safe, low tech solution before we start harnessing what is likely to be an expensive process that is riskier to the workers and the environment to make up for the negligence of this industry.

Hell, it could be a selling point: Food so clean you don’t need to nuke it to avoid getting sick.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 1:22 PM
Comment #199797
It does, however, come at the consequence of reduced nutritional value, as many of the complex molecules, vitamins, and other nutrients get cracked too.

Do we know anything about any unintended consequences when this happens? Has that been studied?

Posted by: womanmarine at December 19, 2006 1:43 PM
Comment #199802


Have no fear Jack, many people had the same feelings about immunizations when they first came out (some of us still do) but, like good little world cititzens, they learned to accept them without question. The same will happen with irradiation of foods.

Second-Thank goodness that such things eventually are accepted.

Posted by: Brian Poole at December 19, 2006 2:40 PM
Comment #199803

Thanks for the luddite comment Jack. Nobody has yet given me one reason why I should want my food irradiated. I have never, repeat, never had food poisoning from food consumed at home. Not in my parents house, not in mine. Never. We buy almost entirely fresh foods, direct from the market and meats direct from our local supermarket, with a cerification scheme that tells us the history of the animals on our receipt. The only thing missing is the animals name and SSN! It’s called the traceback scheme. Now please, someone, tell me why I need my food irradiated? What benefits will it bring to me and my family??? Will I get better food? Hell I will. The food business will make more money because they can keep food on the shelves longer that would otherwise spoil. Well poor them. I know I pay for spoiled food anyway, b ecause it has to be paid for, and the companies have to make their profits, so I’m the one to stump up. But i’m ok with that. I know it is not possible to eliminate food spoilage from the distribution system and the cost of it is carried to the consumer. So what’s the problem? To my mind, consumers voting for irradiation of their food is like turkeys voting for Christmas.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at December 19, 2006 2:55 PM
Comment #199805

The CDC says that while the nutritional value of the food remains, some nutrients are damaged, and some foods are not suitable for the process. Eggs can become cloudy and unfit for certain uses. Shellfish The Irradiation does not kill virus or destroy prions (prions being the degenerate proteins that cause Mad Cow Disease).

Also, it’s no short cut to eliminating germs. As the site says:

For irradiation to be effective, the food that is to be irradiated already needs to be clean. The more initial contamination there is, the higher dose of irradiation it would take to eliminate possible pathogens, and the greater the change in the taste and quality of the food. The protection of irradiation will be overcome if the contamination levels are too high.

There is also the issue of contamination afterwards, through contact with other unsterilzed surfaces and products.

The better way to deal with all this is in the manner with which most of our food has been handled The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system or HACCP. The linked article describes its beginnings in terms of the necessities of keeping astronauts from getting sick in orbit.

Beginning in 1959, the Pillsbury company embarked on work with NASA to further develop a process stemming from ideas employed in engineering systems development know as Failure Mode & Effect Analysis (FMEA). Through the thorough analysis of production processes and identification of microbial hazards that were known to occur in the production establishment, Pillsbury and NASA identified the critical points in the process at which these hazards were likely introduced into product and therefore should be controlled.

The establishment of critical limits of specific mechanical or test parameters for control at those points, the validation of these prescribed steps by scientifically verifiable results, and the development of record keeping by which the processing establishment and the regulatory authority could monitor how well process control was working all culminated in what today is known as HACCP. In this way, an expensive or time consuming testing procedure is not required to guarantee the safety of each piece of food leaving an assembly line, but rather the entire process has been seamlessly integrated as a series of validated steps.

The emphasis above is mine.

We need to prevent the spread of disease and the illness of animals on the feedlot. That is our critical weakness in this country. We allow these factory farms to operate in pretty filthy conditions, and its coming back to bite us on a number of fronts. I mean, have you ever asked yourself why we have to pasteurize orange juice, and why Lettuce is getting contaminated with E. Coli?

Technology to decontaminate food is nice, but we’d do even better to use technology to prevent contamination from the start. The paradigm of HACCP type will allow us both the flexibility and the simplicity of regulation to deal with the problem. But it must be dealt with, and dealt with at the source. The alternative, even with irradiation, is the continuation of this sorry mess.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 3:11 PM
Comment #199810

The text from “The emphasis above is mine” downwards is not part of the quote.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 3:28 PM
Comment #199814

womanmarine, In a nutshell, when the molecules break down free radicals are formed. Free radicals are thought to lead to things like cancer and arthritis among others. Anti oxidents are needed to fight the free radicals. Antioxidents come from vitamins E and C I believe. Vitamin quality in the irradiated food is lowered. So the consumer loses all the way around.

Shelf life is the major reason for the push on irradiating food. Food poisoning is the tatic used to convince you its a necessity. By the way it will make the food we eat cost more not less as it is an aded step in the process. Irradiated meat was tried a few years back at some school districts in Nebraska I think, It would add $.75 per pound to the cost of the meat, so of course it flopped. So just think less nutrients more cost wow.
BTW lettuce, which was responsible for the last 2 well publicized cases of food poisoning is not able to be irradiated.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 19, 2006 3:45 PM
Comment #199816

You know I hate to keep raining on the parade but, Havent we just gone thru several recalls of medicine, that was approved for use by the FDA, that turned out to be deadly? Didnt the FDA in the last 6 to 8 years or so move to a fast track or proactive principle in lieu of the dasterdly precautionary principle? Isnt this issue sort of the same thing, not really needed. Its nice to have new ideas and technologies that help the world, but sometimes if its not broke maybe we shouldnt fix it.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 19, 2006 4:00 PM
Comment #199820


I can understand your feelings of resentment towards those who fight progress. Many proponants of evolution and molecular biology have similar beefs at the moment. But there is nothing to gain by launching a pre-emptive attack against criticism.

I will grant you that in out information driven and media crazed culture, there are many examples of illogical yet successful “wrench in the works” campaigns against certain advancements. And that the attacks are often launched by those who have no business professing an expert opinion on the matter doesn’t help. They will innevitably drive away some business. Sometimes a “finger in the chili” story alone is enough to turn people off. That is unfortunate. They became a sort of media attention scape-goat. It happens. And even that didn’t kill them.

Those who weather the storms are generally those who keep a low profile. Compared to our European neighbors, we are very passive about GM food. I suppose it is because they don’t kill people. Well, Jack, I guess the best one can hope for in a free market society is to sell the food under a certain certification mark, build up enough good will in that mark so as to gain enough credibility so as to be able to perverbally look down your nose at critics when they sound off their unreasoned alarms.

If they fail, and there is still good reason for investors to believe there is a potential in the something, others will innevitably succeed. In other words, it is always going to be trial and error at first, but the deck is always stacked in favor of the best ideas. It might be easy to defame one company or one trademark, but almost impossible to keep a good exploitable idea from being good and exploited.

Have some faith in us hungry mouths to not bite the hand that literally feeds us. We are, after all, supposed to be an educated populace. At some point that has to mean something.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 19, 2006 4:43 PM
Comment #199821


The air and water are cleaner by all the measures we use. All major pollutants (with the exception of CO2, which was not originally classified as pollution) are reduced since 1970. The number of ozone alert days have dropped to almost zero in most cities.

I run and swim and have done my entire life. I have run in most of the U.S. for many years. The air is cleaner. The “acid rain” problem is largely gone.

You can now swim in many rivers that would killed you in 1970. Fish and wildlife are abundant. I know some people like to look at all the problems, but anybody who is fair understands that great progress have been made. I have seen it in my own experience and I read it in all the statistics. The only things worse than it was in 1970 is sprawl and (as I mentioned) CO2, which was not regulated in 1970 because everybody thought it was harmless.


When the end comes “the wealthy” will probably be the ones to survive. The poor always suffer.


You know that a lot of the latest e-coli etc is from organic style farms. The large factory operation can be kept very clean.

An additional problem of food poisioning comes from the handling IN your own home. Irradiation helps keep food fresher there too.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 4:45 PM
Comment #199822

jack your quote was originally:
The air and water in our country today is cleaner than at any time in our lives…Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 09:46 PM

You now say
All major pollutants…are reduced since 1970…Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 04:45 PM

Unless no one was alive prior to 1970, then your initial statement is acknowledged as false.
For further clarification on my comment:

Why does the (r)wing always resort to lies, misdirection, and hyperbole when faced with an inconvienient perspective? Posted by Dave1-20-2009 at December 19, 2006 12:39 PM

hyperbole def’n: obvious and intentional exaggeration.

Can you admit to being guilty as charged? No punsiment, civil or criminal expected.

Full disclosure: I work in the medical device industry. FDA, although on the individuals level is still intensely pro consumer, has become too much a tool of big pharma and big food.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 19, 2006 4:54 PM
Comment #199823


Biotech is another story of irrational fear.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 5:11 PM
Comment #199824

Jack is absolutely right. In the long run, the naysayers will lose out. The corporations will win and the marching morons will be enslaved.

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 5:17 PM
Comment #199826


I was born in 1955. The air and water did not decline that much from 1955-1970. Our use of coal had already obscured the sun in most American cities. I chose 1970 because that is when we started keeping good measurement. I do not have measures for everything.

I know that the absolute low point for forests in the U.S. came in the 1920s. Since them they have been growing back. Deer, turkeys, geese etc, so common today were rare in the 1940s.

I have a reasonable expectation that anyone reading this and currently living in the U.S. would be enjoying cleaner air and water than any time in his/her life time.

The metapoint is that air and water in the U.S. is cleaner than it has been for a long time and the hyperbole is that things are getting worse all over.

I will plead guility to hyperbole by assuming that conditions in 1970 were not very much worse than those of 1960 or before.

You need to plead guilty to hyperbole if you say that conditions are not measurably better than they were anytime from 1970 to today.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 5:27 PM
Comment #199827


Yeah, I feel enslaved that I drink pasteurized milk and do not get food poisioning every couple of weeks.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2006 5:28 PM
Comment #199828


I might be missing something…what is the contradiction regarding Jack’s statements? In environment started degrading with the rise of industry and mass farming. In the 70’s the environment was pretty darn bad. At some point thereafter, it started getting substantially better as we became more aware. It is now fairly decent in most localities. It is most likely better now than it has been from the peak of industrialization until now. At least in the places where most people actually have actually lived.

There is a lot of progress being made domestically on environmental issues outside of the realm of fossile feul extraction. There are supposedly more wooded lands in the US today than there was in the early 1800’s. The big issues are global in nature, and need to be met on that front.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 19, 2006 5:34 PM
Comment #199831


If my enslavement makes me and my family live longer and healthier lives, and at the same time helps to create jobs and stimulate the economy providing me with more options for living a happier life, then consider my enslavement voluntary…thus not enslavement at all.

Its not slavory, its only marketing and sales. Only the lazy and naive face a distinct disadvantage. There is rarely a shortage of easily accessible information for the rest of us.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 19, 2006 5:44 PM
Comment #199834


I’m with you on this one. Irradiation of food is a fairly cheap, easy way of making our food safer. It is impossible to rid our food chain of potentially harmful microorganisms, and inevitably some people will be infected and fall ill. Some will even die. Irradiation suppresses these microorganisms for a long time and has no detectable ill effects on those consuming the food. Although alarmists speculate about potential byproducts that will do long term damage, the cost-benefit trade-off here is far to the side of irradiation. Just about any food safety expert will tell you this (e.g., see my colleague and friend Mike Osterholm’s work).

Posted by: mental wimp at December 19, 2006 6:00 PM
Comment #199836

First, the Factory Farms aren’t that clean. That was the point of that legislation you were supporting a while back that was trying to sink superfund liability for Farm Operations. These places put out a ton of you-know-what every year, and a lot of it ends up going into the water supply. In the amounts they produce, it can be downright toxic.

It doesn’t get better on the inside of these things. These creatures are fed and kept still in one place in their pen for just about their entire lives, not allowed to Roam and get exercise. They’re practically wallowing in each other’s wastes. That’s how these diseases like Salmonella and E. Coli became common in the food chain. With organic farms, the E. Coli likely came from manure from contaminated animals.

Irradiation is not a cure for this. Given sufficient time, you could undo the effects of gross contamination, but that would be too long to leave the food edible. The CDC tells us on its site that the food should be brought to the process clean, that irradiation is only a supplement to other sanitary procedures.

Irradiation can only kill what’s on the food when it’s put through the process. past that, its vulnerable to all kinds of contamination.

The trouble here is that you’re taking the position of this being another NIMBY-denied technology, and arguing that if only we would be more adventurous, we’d have the cure to all the contamination problems. Problem is, it’s not a cure for the problem. At best it could function as a failsafe, a last full measure step. If that contamination, though, is serious enough, the irradiation will not kill all the bacteria it needs to kill. The hazzard will remain.

The HACCP approach makes better sense, and requires less expensive mucking around with nuclear material. If a thing can be done by simpler and cheaper means, it should be done that way. I suspect that besides the fear factor of radiation, the one reason this hasn’t caught on so much is that requires such a capital investment to safely and legally accomplish. HACCP allows a cheaper, better integrated way to stop most of the germs in their tracks. We shouldn’t be trying to undo this contamination after everything has been said and done. We should be trying to prevent it from the start, when its simpler and more effective to do so.

I’m no slacker in terms of high technology. I love it. But I’ve been through the history of science enough to know that progress is rarely the straightfoward triumphant march some would make it out to be. It’s not ever onwards and upwards. Technology and design are imperfect. If we fail to recognize it, we’ll end up causing more problems for ourselves.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 19, 2006 6:15 PM
Comment #199840

Kevin23: Thanks for helping me make my point.

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 6:30 PM
Comment #199844


I agree with you except in the use of the term “enslave” … voluntary slavory is not slavory. The trick is in the convincing. The most primitive and effective mode of marketing is “monkey see monkey do”.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 19, 2006 7:27 PM
Comment #199869

Jack: I don’t have the statistics to back it up, but I would bet that the number of food poisonings per 1000 of pop. is about the same as it was 200 or 300 years ago. Because of modern medicine, the number of deaths is down. Most food poisioning events go unreported because they are mild. They cause symptoms that are similar to the flu. You have a headache, stomach cramps, etc. You get over it in two or three days without realizing that you had a mild case of food poisoning.

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 11:07 PM
Comment #199871

Since this is a sort of agriculture thread, what is the number one cash crop in America, worth an estimated 35 billion dollars per year?

Posted by: jlw at December 19, 2006 11:10 PM
Comment #199876



I never said things weren’t better than in 1970. If I had, you could lock me up.
The problem I had was David Remer said: “Proper hygienic handling of food is the only safe way -…Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2006 09:15 PM” and you replied “The air and water in our country today is cleaner than at any time in our lives…Posted by: Jack at December 18, 2006 09:46 PM”
I apollogize for putting on myFreeper-bar hat (inside joke) and going off on a tangent with rather poorly supported suppostions and semimornic connections, perhaps it was in fun, perhaps just in venting.
Anyway, I agree the environemnt has improved. I am also convinced that those improvements are under attack by this administration in the name of profit and if they get their way any further, we will go back to living in the 70’s. Their denial of man induced climate change simply removes any credibility they have. The politicization of the all federal agenices further casts doubts on federal released research and data. From what I know, irradiation of food is basically harmless and makes sense in a CAPA/HACCP approach but it doesn’t address root cause, it only mitigates the risk, and I agree with Remer, it creates more depencies on industry to live up to it’s end of things. Which we know will simply sodomize us in the end. pun intended.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 19, 2006 11:40 PM
Comment #199880


Actually, Stephen, the Sun produces tons of x-rays and gamma rays. It is, after all, a massive thermonuclear fusion reaction.

I did not mean to compare the Sun’s output to irradiation of foods by an isotope, but extrapolating atomic changes in the food by exposure to radiation to disease or “free radicals” in the consumer is simply absurd. That isn’t science, that’s leap of faith science fiction. Hint: the food is dead. Implanting it with radioactive isotopes would be bad, but that isn’t what we are talking about. You could nuke it to pure carbon, and while unedible, it wouldn’t hurt you because of the radiation.

I repeat. There is not one iota of scientific evidence of any danger from irradiating food.
As to the personnel employed in the plant, there are radioactive sources used in all kinds of industry, and safe handling techniques are required of and enforced upon license holders. Especially since 9-11.

It may have happened in the Blob attacks New York, but not in the real world.

Assuming that other clean techniques will be loosened is pure speculation, and biased toward your desired argument.

Posted by: gergle at December 20, 2006 12:11 AM
Comment #199884

Gergle, what happens when you irradiate bacon or other fats? Hint they turn rancid, why? free redicals.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 20, 2006 1:02 AM
Comment #199885

radicals not redicals.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 20, 2006 1:07 AM
Comment #199892



All that tax revenue down the toilet.

Posted by: Kevin23 at December 20, 2006 3:30 AM
Comment #199905


I’m with Jack on this one. irradiated food is not only safe it is tested. NASA, the military and hospitals have been doing it for decades.

They did blood transfusions with AIDS contaminated banks for years too. They used asbestos everywhere for decades too.
While knowing that was NOT safe. Far from it.

You get the idea: “doing it since decades” is not another word for tested and/or safety.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at December 20, 2006 7:59 AM
Comment #199907


THESE THINGS ARE AND HAVE BEEN STRILIZED USING IONIZING RADIATION: USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!! hypodermic needles surgical supplies transfusion sets kidney transplant kits burn ointment enzymes (those fragile little molecules) infant bottles wine corks sanitary napkins most food served in the army all food served on the space shuttle band aids milk cartons contact lens solution

Best list of irradiated food ever!
Now I’m convinced.

In 1958 the FDA pronounced irradiation an additive. You are not adding a thing. Irradiation is a process like so many others. One more tool to help us clean food, it is no more unnatural then cooking food. Ever see a “creature of nature” do that? Anyone with a bit of knowledge about nuclear medicine knows irradiation is harmless. And don’t think Agra-business is pushing this as a solution. This stuff ain’t cheap.

It’s highly profitable: irradiated stuff will legally expired way later. Longer stock time, lesser money waste.

I’m not convinced they’re pushing it *only* for health consideration, mind you.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at December 20, 2006 8:20 AM
Comment #199909

irradiation, cheaper than lawsuits.If its so good why not display the little symbol in big bold letters for all to see instead of hiding it on the backs of packages in small print, be proud of the good your doing and display it prominently?

Posted by: j2t2 at December 20, 2006 8:29 AM
Comment #199910

The sun produces a lot of radiation, true enough, across the spectrum.

Not all of it reaches us, though. Gamma, X-Rays, and most UV rays get stopped by the Ozone layer.

As far as atomic changes from radiation, that typically only happens when the radiation is Neutron radiation, which isn’t involved here.

What is involved here, and what is crucial to my point, is that this ionizing radiation affects the electromagnetic forces that create chemical bonds. That, in fact, is why it’s called ionizing- it’s energetic enough not just to kick electrons to higher energy orbitals, but to kick them out of the orbitals altogether, ionizing the atom. Do this to atoms in a chemical bond, and the bond can be broken, whether it’s DNA, protein, or even simple water. That’s in fact what the water tanks are for in irradiating facilities that use Cobalt Isotopes.

That molecular breakage is how it does its damage to life forms, how UV causes skin cancer, how radiation sickness comes about, and how you kill bacteria, fungus, and parasites with a burst of radiation.

Food can only remain edible so long while under radiation, since after all you’re breaking chemicals down in both the food and the microbes. It takes a certain length of time to decontaminate food, an exposure time if you will. If the germs manage to survive the brief radiation surge, then everything’s been for naught.

Jack is essentially proposing this as an answer to contamination problems we’ve been having recently, but his theory has a big problem, and you’ll find it in the CDC link above.

The exposure time problem is what kills it. If you bring in a chicken carcass dripping with Salmonella, it’s not going to solve your problem. You’ll kill most of them, no doubt, but if you want the pullet edible, you can’t kill them all.

Which means that this supposedly safe food landing on our tables would still be contaminated.

If we’re looking to keep food fresh and avoid the expense of irradiation, we should simply reform the early process and revamp it so we’re not getting the contamination in the system in the first place, or at least not letting it run rampant.

HACCP techniques and procedures have been tried and tested in the real world. They are not a pie in the sky invention of mine. It’s an approach, rather than an outright technology: identify the sources and aggravating factors of contamination and microbial growth, and eliminate them systematically, conclusively, making sure of accountability and effectiveness along the line.

I’m not a luddite, Gergle. What I’m pointing out here is that for all the expense, the controversy and the risk in playing around with nuclear materials, the improvement in food sanitation will not be sufficient to merit it as an across the board solution to the problem of sanitation. The better solution is a redesign and regulation of factory farms and feedlots according to HACCP principles, with respect for the biological realities of the animals we’re dealing with.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 20, 2006 8:37 AM
Comment #199923


Actually liberals today are often luddites. They resist most forms of progress. The only one they support these days are evolution and stem cells, the latter mostly because they do not like George Bush. In almost every other case, they trot out that anti scientific precautionary principle.

You are rejecting an important tool in keeping food safe because it does not solve all the problems. That is a luddite position. Let’s go back to the old timey farming methods, those good old days when people dropped like flies from water borne diseases and when a simply scrap could lead to a deadly fever. After all, we should be able to avoid all dirty water and never get a cut. That is just bad planning.

Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 11:21 AM
Comment #199929

I’m wondering how a french stinking cheese eater could provides interesting position in your little germs sanitization issue…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at December 20, 2006 11:41 AM
Comment #199933

A good principle to work with when dealing with science can be summed up with these words: “Read the fine print.”

Over my life I’ve seen many technologies trumpeted, from superconductors to nanotechnology, and every time, there’s been a catch to how they develop. For example, high temperature superconductors have the annoying habit of being ceramics, which are not that good at being flexible and non-brittle.

Nanotechnology, in another example, must deal with a significant problem of what happens at the atomic scale. Many envisioned nanotech as being just like regular tech, just smaller. They envisioned nano-sized grippers grabbing atoms and putting them in place.

Just one problem: atoms get sticky at that scale! So, people are having to redesign their conception of what can work at that scale.

Looking at steel, we can see some of the trade offs. Get steel that is really ductile, and you get a material that you can’t use to support anything, lest it permanently deform under stress (this is what caused the collapses in the WTC- heat caused the beams support the floors to become softer, more ductile, bending them under their own weight). Get steel that is really stiff, really hard, and you get something so brittle that it just snaps under strain, like cast iron does.

Look at brick. Brick has an extraordinary ability to support weight. You could practically build a mountain of them. Unfortunately the weight of the structure would cause it to sink into the ground, rather than float on top of it like good buildings are supposed to do. Another problem with brick is that while it’s great at supporting compressional forces, it sucks at tensile strength- you can pull it apart easy. Designers of building with new brick fronts are experiment with a plastic film to prevent the common consequence of this in earthquakes, which is the destruction of masonry structures when the shock pulls them apart.

No technology exists where the design problems do not emerge.

With Irradiation, the design problem is exposure of organic materials to radiation, and the length of time it takes for this to have its effect. Effectively, we measure the radiation in terms of the amount over time, the cumulative dose.

To kill the germs, you have to expose them long enough to break down their molecular processes. We can do this safely with food, given the fact we’re usually not opposed to a modicum of breakdown- we eat mostly dead things, to be sure.

However, we don’t like to eat very dead things, for the same reason we don’t like to eat over-irradiated foods: after a certain point, the breakdown itself constitutes a certain spoilage.

To present this as a solution to the contamination problem requires that it be capable of actually decontaminating the kind of badly contaminated food that gets people sick. However, the CDC states that food should be brought clean to the process, because otherwise the time it takes to sterilize the food would be harmful to the food itself. The dosages set for irradiation are only effective for such and such a level of contamination. Get beyond that, and you’re not going to kill enough.

Irradiation is not the solution you imply it is. It might be good for minor contamination, or for preventing spoilage over longer periods of time, but it’s not going to replace other methods of maintaining food hygiene, nor prevent the kind of contamination from wreaking its effect that you intend it to stop.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 20, 2006 12:18 PM
Comment #199934

Actually, Stephen, it is the magnetosphere that largely protects us from gamma and xrays.

j2t2, If you apply enough radiation to bacon it will not turn rancid but changes in the protein structure will occur. It could be “cooked” with enough radiation. The point of irradiation of food is not to “cook”, but to kill living organisms. The radiation is attenuated to produce this effect.

Stephen, I had to look up luddite. I think Jack is offering up something that could be of great benefit, but is resisted by those with both poor knowledge and political bias against radiation as a principle. I believe that position is irrational and fear based.

The hardest subject to many sophmore and junior physics students is electromagnetic radiation. It is poorly understood, still in our time. It is simply another use of nature, a technology, to me.
Flying is a dangerous technology, too. But it can be done with relative safety, and can be fun and extremely beneficial.

It seems to me, you are resisting a natural allie in producing safe food, rather than seeing it as a helpful tool.

Posted by: gergle at December 20, 2006 12:21 PM
Comment #199935

Stephen, actually I just re-read your last paragraph and I think that is a reasonable position.

Posted by: gergle at December 20, 2006 12:25 PM
Comment #199943


We are now talking past each other. I am advocating it as one in a tool box of solutions. It does not have to replace other things. This is exactly the point I am making. You do not reject this useful tool because it does not solve ALL the problems. Nothing does. When you go to your tool box, do you reject the wrench because it really cannot be used as a screwdriver? You prefer to use your fingers to tighten those bolts.


Some forms of French cheese are better than their U.S. counterparts BECAUSE of the particular germs etc. We keep some of them out of our country for “hygiene” reasons, but it really is just a sneaky trade barrier. I apologize to you all for that, and I regret it myself because I do enjoy some of your stinky products (not all. Some really require a special taste)



Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 1:43 PM
Comment #199949
Actually liberals today are often luddites. They resist most forms of progress…Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 11:21 AM
Discussion or talking point? How about: What you see as “progress” I see as regression to outdated and disproven philosophies wrapped in neocon vulgarity.

There’s a big difference between having trust in science to generate and validate solutions versus having faith in irradiated foods as being safe (BTW, I think irradiated food is “safer” than non irradiated) or in government to place public good over special interests.

There is also a difference between taking an anitbiotic and avoiding getting sick in the first place. It’s OK to take the drug, it’s fantastic that we have these drugs. But we’re all better off in continuing to improve overall health. And certainly, if big agri can increase profit by irradiation and avoid costs in preventing the contamination in the first place, then that is what they’ll do, and that is what you seem to stand for. If you include both in the proposition, then you would have my support.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 20, 2006 2:02 PM
Comment #199951

gergle, radiation kills cancerous tumors. What is not widely reported is that radiation also kills many of the patients with those tumors, by depleting their immuno response.

Radiation can be a very productive and positive tool for certain applications, but, it is also can have very damaging effects upon living organisms both plant and animal.

One of the most dangerous and life threatening environments man has created for himself is space. Why is it so dangerous and life threatening, because it is an entirely unnatural environment for higher developed living organisms evolved on this planet. And space has claimed a significant number of lives.

When we make ourselves dependent on artificial means, and those means fail, we kill and injure those dependent on the artificial means. To replace proper hygiene with artificial sterilization of food products, we open the door to an endless series of failures in which consumers will die as the producers and manufacturers profit.

This is the reason Republicans are so intent on rewriting the rules of litigation and law suit awards by consumers to minimize their ability to recompense from such failures. It is all part of a grand strategy by corporatists to increase profits while making the consumers ever more vulnerable to their profit demands.

Snake oil salesman haven’t changed, they just donned suits and hired high priced lawyers. Laudnum was a wonder drug to the 100’s of thousands of addicted women who depended on it. Just as irradiating food will be a wonder profit increaser for producers who will no longer have to foot the overhead of hygienic production, handling, and distribution of food products. And in the end, 100’s of thousands of consumers will be rendered ill and dead when irradiation fails, which it will inevitably do repeatedly for many reasons over time.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 20, 2006 2:18 PM
Comment #199963


There is a philosophical and practical side of limiting litigation. Many innovations have societal benefits that are not captured by the innovators. This is a great thing and has been the font of most progress. Any innovation also carries risk. We have to some extent socialized that as well. We really cannot strictly account for either risk or benefit. When we try to assess blame, even assuming we got the right people, we are not balancing the equation.

I learned this when I was a kid and please indulge my anecdote. I have always loved trees. Near my house was a beautiful big white ash tree. It was probably more than 100 years old and had provided shade and beauty all that time. We had a serious wind storm that blew this tree down on top of several cars. They wanted to guy who owned the tree to pay damages. I do not know what happened, but it struck me as unfair. All the neighbors had enjoyed that tree for 100 years. Each of us derived benefit, but only that one poor guy got all the risk.

My only point is that balance is necessary. Risk should be as predictable as we can make it, but if we eliminate risk, we eliminate opportunity for the whole society.

With this irradiation issue, the process will almost certainly save thousands of lives and make food just a bit less expensive. It is a tool, like pasteurization. You need not change all the hygiene rules and probably do not want to do that. Nobody wants crap all over his food, even if it is sterilized.

There is a downside risk for everything. Not using irradiation will cause thousands of deaths in the next decade. Using irradiation may not prevent as many deaths as we hope. The choice seems clear to me.

Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 3:43 PM
Comment #199964

My understanding on the magnetosphere is that it gets in the way of charged particles and the like, which are deflected by it’s electromagnetic force. I recall reading that astronauts closing their eyes would see glowing flashes come throught them as the cosmic rays collided with the liquid inside their eyes. The EM radiation remains largely undeflected, since photons carry no charge. That hits the atmosphere, especially the Ozone Layer, which is responsible for absorbing UV rays in particular.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 20, 2006 3:44 PM
Comment #199967

The lesson I’ve learned from years of study is don’t fall in love with technology for its own sake. Sometimes the solution is less exotic, less dangerous, and simpler than you think.

Even if irradiation is only one part of a process, it adds greatly to the expense, the regulatory overhead, and even at its best degrades the food item.

You can call me a luddite, but I don’t oppose irradiation on the grounds that its new technology, or even on the grounds that it involves radiation. My main concern is that its just too much trouble for not enough benefit.

Improving feedlots and factory farms would likely do much good towards reducing contamination, without the expense and the procedural overhead necessary to irradiate, and probably with a great deal more effect.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 20, 2006 4:03 PM
Comment #199968

As for Pasteurization, I’d have to say that the comparison falls apart when you realize that you can be in the same room as it’s being done without wearing lead or being behind multiple feet of concrete. The lack of need for exotic shielding and protection makes Pasteurization simpler, cheaper, and more practical of a process for liquids.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 20, 2006 4:06 PM
Comment #199973

Jack, and using radiation could cost far more lives than that, if a radiation resistant strain gets on to the unsuspecting and trusting consumer market, which permits irradiation to replace good hygienic food production and distribution practices.

Let’s be honest, what we are talking about here at the most basic level is reducing the demand on farm producers to provide the overhead cost of bathroom facilities in their harvesting fields. We are eating crap already, with irradiation, we will eat more as the perceived need for port-a-johnnies and hand washing facilities in the field are eliminated by irradiation. Deregulation is what Republicans are all about right? Sanitation in the fields is a regulation of industry, anathema to Republican philosophy.

I hear where you are coming from.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 20, 2006 5:18 PM
Comment #199981


We are not talking about any of those things. We pateurize milk. Have you been to a dairy farm lately? It is very clean and sanitary.

You are making a completely unfounded argument. I guess it is a form of the moral hazard argument (i.e. if I have insurance, I will drive like a maniac).

Hygiene in the fields can remain unchanged or be improved. It is not part of the argument. The fact is food poisioning is lower now than it used to be. We have reached a point where we can move to an even higher level. I do not think irradiation should be mandated and it should not be a substitute for other things. But it is a useful tool.

Let me ask you a question? Would you ban anti-cholesterol medicines? It encourages people not to exercise and diet by your logic. Maybe we should just quit pasteurizing milk products.

Irradiation is a powerful tool that can save lives and avoid sickness. It is not th only tool and it need not replace others. As I wrote to Stephen, would you throw the new wrench out of your toolbox because it might not replace a screwdriver?

Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 6:51 PM
Comment #199983

I reread my message to make sure I said it plain:

In modern America, we have come to expect better, but we may have reached the limits of the possible through inspection & dilgence. (FDA spending on food safety has increased by 51% since 2001. Are we there yet?) We just cannot inspect and regulate ourselves to the level of safety we rightfully demand, but inspection coupled with the best new technology can.

What part of that wants to get rid of sanitation?

Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2006 6:53 PM
Comment #199988

Just because at one time people were generally unaware of the role food contamination plays in illness doesn’t mean that there was a time when food wasn’t contaminated and people didn’t get food-borne illness. The mass production of food is probably no more or less naturally contaminated than production at a smaller level, even though it may have a less romantic cachet. At least, I haven’t seen evidence that the rates of contamination differ by scale. I would be interested in seeing some, if anybody knows of some.

The bottom line is that we have probably pushed rates down as low as they can go with currently used methods, given that these microorganisms are pretty ubiquitous. There are natural reservoirs that can’t be eradicated practically. Some, like Listeria, are found just about everywhere. HACCP, producer inspections, FoodNet, etc., all play an important role in monitoring and reducing contamination, but we need additional approaches to lower rates further than these have. There are ALWAYS potentially unforeseen dangers to any technology, but if they are not a reason to avoid use of it. Mistakes will be made in both directions: not using technologies can be equally harmful. For example, let’s say that irradiation can further decrease food-borne illness by 20%, and that the expected downside of irradiation leads to the equivalent of a 10% increase. Not using irradiation is responsible for 10% of food-borne illness.

I hate like hell siding with Jack because he argues in such a mewling, pusillanimous way, and usually for the most naked partisan talking points, but I’m afraid he’s right on this one, kids.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at December 20, 2006 7:37 PM
Comment #199990

Stephen, all EM radiation has both wave and “photon” properties. Any high energy radiation can “ionize” an absorber of radiation. Gamma rays are simply higher energy than visible light , UV or x-rays.

The ionosphere is a band of “ionized” atmostphere or “plasma” that has been ionized (free electrons) and reflects and conducts radio signals. Ozone is a form of ionized atmostsphere but is not the ionoshpere, per say.

Light will actually bend around a planet on gravity alone. (it’s something that was used to confirm Einstein’s Relativity.)Strong magnetic fields will also bend light.

The massive solar flares which are simply bundles of ionizing radiation are largely deflected by our magnetic dipole. Gravity, momentum and magnetic fields are the forces acting upon solar flares that control their motion. Time, distance, and density affect absorbtion of radiation

The atmosphere absorbing and the deflection of solar winds by our dipole magnetosphere is what protects us from most damaging solar radiation.

Posted by: gergle at December 20, 2006 7:49 PM
Comment #199991

By the way, If you ever want to feel small, insignificant and in awe of nature, or for the religious, in awe of God’s creation….go see the the Northern Lights. This is the effect of radiation being drawn into the ionoshpere by our dipole. It is an incredible show and awesomely large. If I were a caveman without knowledge of the magnetospere, I’d believe in God after seeing that.

Posted by: gergle at December 20, 2006 7:56 PM
Comment #200000

Hey! We are dosing our beef with megavitamins and antibiotics now! So, what if we replaced some of that junk with some rays! In the end the meat is safer when we get it from the box store…it doesn’t spoil as soon after we get it…it doesn’t spoil as quickly at room-temperature… sounds like a good deal to me.
Plus, the real benefit comes to second-world countries, like Argentina! They can do the processing of their beef in their own country and ship the product without refrigeration to nations around the world. Their economy gets a real boost.

Posted by: Don at December 20, 2006 8:53 PM
Comment #200010

Really now, irradiation is not a new technology as it has been around since the 60’s. If you want new technology try ultra high pressure which doesnt affect the food. Or if you prefer low tech try prune puree!

You would think conservatives would at least have the kahonee’s to state the reasons they are really for irradiation of foods, which as we know are 1. shielding business from lawsuits. 2. profit for agribusiness 3. lowering the quality of food to the consumer whilst charging more.

They are the true ludittes which is why they settle for this old outdated technology!

Posted by: j2t2 at December 20, 2006 10:22 PM
Comment #200020

Don, or go the simpler route, and eat beef only rarely. Which 10’s of millions of Americans have chosen to do. Irradiate it, and you will have 100 million giving up beef, which will be great for all those Republican voting ranchers, won’t it. The bottom of the market will fall through, and price won’t bring the customers back.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 21, 2006 12:17 AM
Comment #200023

Jack said: “I have insurance, I will drive like a maniac”

Exactly right. On a statistical basis, that is precisely how it works. It is why people build in flood zones, on fault lines, and rebuild after disaster, because of insurance. I worked in that industry, study their research and actuarials on the topic how insurance increases risky behavior. It is an eye opener.

And that is precisely what happens to those who fall prey to the myth of safe irradiated food. It will be safe for awhile, and then large numbers will be ill or dead. Because irradiation was never guaranteed, and never could be as a replacement for hygienic food production, handling, and distribution as well as preparation.

E. coli comes from shit, Jack, the intestinal tracts of humans and some animals. Hygiene for field, handling, and distribution workers, training them, and paying them a respectful wage is the best hedge against E. Coli on vegetables that are traditionally not cooked before eaten. Irradiation will only lead to mutant strains that escape the effects of irradiation, Jack. Then the damage is done, and the false promise to the consumers broken.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 21, 2006 12:29 AM
Comment #200025


100 Million giving up beef… on top of those who already gave it up?

Could you possibly give me a source on that?

I’ll be sure to double up on my sirloin intake to make up for one on the other side.

I would like to lead everyone to an alternative thought… Let’s all get together and fight with everything we have to eliminate the mortality rate that comes with one of our favorite past times… driving and riding in an automobile. Have you seen recent statistics about how dangerous it is to ride in a car? Pheeewwwwwww If we would go back to the horse and buggy then no one would die, get injured, or get mangled in car accidents.

Posted by: scottie1321 at December 21, 2006 12:34 AM
Comment #200045

Jack: Rather than a discussion on irradiated food, how about a discussion on how the government farm subsidy program is helping agribusness destroy the small farmers and how that is a good thing.

scottie1321: The highway’s are our volcano.

Posted by: jlw at December 21, 2006 11:52 AM
Comment #200052


But you do have insurance, don’t you?

It is all a matter of where you draw the line. We frequently talk about Social Security. Isn’t that the same category? If people could be relied upon to take care of their own savings, we should not need it.

I have auto insurance. Maybe I drive a little worse than I might w/o it, but I think insurance is still a good idea. This is just a little insurance.


There is a niche for small farmers in specialty crops and local vegetables. A small farmer probably cannot grow enough grain etc to make a go of it.

I have a tree farm and it is classified as small agriculture. I do not depend on it for income. There is no way I could make a consistent living off that. Big agriculture is keeping me out of the business only by being so efficient that my small fry operation cannot compete.

Are you a farm boy? I am not, but my wife if a farm girl. None of her seven brothers or sisters became farmers, although they could have inherited the farm. She tells me that everybody wants to be a farmer at 5pm but nobody wants to be a farmer at 5am. Being a small farmer is a hard life that most people are unwilling to do.

Posted by: Jack at December 21, 2006 12:35 PM
Comment #200061

We frequently talk about Social Security. Isn’t that the same category? If people could be relied upon to take care of their own savings, we should not need it…Posted by: Jack at December 21, 2006 12:35 PM

False premise. Are you saying that by taking care of their own savings a person on minimum wage, or lets say twice that at $25k a year, a wife and two kids, could remotely hope to save enough to retire on?

Also, you didn’t answer jlw’s question.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 21, 2006 12:56 PM
Comment #200065


To answer the question, I probably will not write a post about that because I do not think it is the cause people leaving the land. I would find it impossible to show that it is happening. If you or jwl knows the details, feel free.

It seems to me that people leaving the land is a long term process that has been happening all over the world. Government subsidies tend to SLOW the exodus, not speed it up.


The idea that David and I talk about (I do not want to speak for him, but I will) is whether or not SS represents an earned contract of something else. To the extent that people do not pay enough into it to justify their payments, I think it shows it to be an entitlement, not an earned benefit.

I do not doubt that David will disagree, but I will now let him speak for himself.

Posted by: Jack at December 21, 2006 1:06 PM
Comment #200099

Please define your interpretation of “justified”? People pay into SS, if they’re lucky, they get more than they put in. If they die early, then not.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 21, 2006 5:00 PM
Comment #200108


If you have a voluntary contract where you pay something in return for something else, both parties believe they will receive something in relation to what they put in.

If you are on the lower end of the SS contribution, it is very unlikely you will pay enough in to justify your returns in the sense that nobody would freely agree to giving you that much in return for that little. If you take 1000 of the low paying people, there would not be enough contribution to pay all of them.

In the case of a high paying SS contribution, there is no way they will get back the money they put in (plus reasonable interest) unless they live to be 150.

And some people recieve benefits who have not paid in at all.

I am not saying this is a bad thing. But it is not an “insurance” policy and many of those receiving benefits have not earned them in any sense we commonly understand the word.

That is one reason why SS is not voluntary.

Posted by: Jack at December 21, 2006 5:26 PM
Comment #200130


Is it fair to say that you feel that the govt has no obligations to it’s citizens beyond the contribution that citizen has made to the gov’t (in terms of taxes)? That’s what it seems you just said.

Posted by: Dave1-20-2009 at December 21, 2006 9:54 PM
Comment #200137


No. What I said is that you cannot claim to have paid for or earned something unless you have paid for it or earned it.

Of course, we may ask, as Kennedy did, not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country.

We get together to form a government in order to do together what you cannot do by ourselves, but the government does not owe any individual a living, it owes us life, liberty and the persuit of happiness, but maybe not the achievement of it.

Posted by: Jack at December 21, 2006 10:34 PM
Comment #200159

Jack said: “The idea that David and I talk about (I do not want to speak for him, but I will) is whether or not SS represents an earned contract of something else.”

Jack this comment is so full of it. S.S. is producing, and has been for a long time, SURPLUSES to fund everything from war to waste, fraud, and abuse by politicians. The fact that it will run a deficit for a 10 to 15 years is matched by the more than decade of surpluses which were spent elsewhere.

So, yes, the program has been and is being paid for in full. The fact that it will one day result in deficit for a demographic hump, only means we need to fund the hump, to save the safety net for our elderly from dying in poverty.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 22, 2006 8:29 AM
Comment #200161

David, your right, SS has proved to be beneficial in the past and present, it has not only paid its own way it has funded more than it should have. its a program that needs to remain intact and not be robbed yeay after year.

Posted by: j2t2 at December 22, 2006 8:59 AM
Comment #200166


We should just replay our comments

SS has a surplus now because it is benefiting from the demographic bulge of the baby boom. It would be almost impossible for it not to work with such favorable numbers. But it is essentially a ponzi scheme. Within the next couple of years, the climate will shift from very benign to very inclement.

We also have a technical disagreement. I wish the government COULD save for the future, but it cannot. I am not saying that it will not or is too disorganized - IT CANNOT. It can invest the money only in its own IOUs. Today’s taxpayers are paying for todays recipients and tomorrow’s taxpayers will pay for tomorrows. They will no more be able to “draw down” savings than you could count on a desk drawer full of IOUs from you to you.

This idea of “robbing SS” is also misleading. OUR government is spending money. We - the current taxpayers and SS payers - are paying for it. We may want the government to spend less in general (I do) but where they get the money is a simple accounting procedure. WE are paying and most of us will be receiving. There is only US; there is no THEM.

You and I can try to talk about “the elderly” but let’s talk plain, we are talking about ourselves. WE will be the recipients when SS begins to run dry and we are talking about taking the money from our kids in order to ensure our own comfort. There is nothing noble about that.

Posted by: Jack at December 22, 2006 9:46 AM
Comment #200218

Wrong Jack. The surpluses in those IOU’s earning treasury rates will cover shortfalls until 2038 to 2042. Then, S.S. will be truly in the red paying out both more than it is taking in and what is owed from the surplus IOU’s. It is from that point forward the people must negotiate on how to handle the shortfall, which by the way, will amount to only a 24% reduction in benefits paid out if we do nothing at all.

Hence, the range of options are to increase and protract surpluses to cover the shortfall period of about 15 years, or a combination of that and extending qualification age, and means testing benefits. Once we are over the baby boom hump, we will return to surpluses again around 2058. Provided of course, the national debt, trade deficits, and personal debt loads don’t destroy the economy first and thus revenues needed to float the Soc. Sec. boat.

Hence, as I said, the real problem is not Soc. Sec., that is easily salvageable and only requires keeping Republican’s fingers out of the solution as they try to carve out private profits as part of the obligation for FICA taxes.

The real problem is spiraling health care costs and the Medicare Insurance programs, which Republicans made far more expensive that it needed to be by prohibiting in the bill competitive bidding for the pharmaceutical contracts with the government for Rx drug plan.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 22, 2006 8:17 PM
Comment #200222


I agree that we have those IOUs and that they will be enough IOUs until the time you say. But all the IOUs are owed to the government BY the government. The taxpayers of those years, our children, will be getting to keep less of their money so that we can have more of it.

The SS recipients just do not have the moral high ground here. WE (you and I and our government) are writing and accepting the IOUs today. BUT WE are not the ones who will pay them back. BUT WE will be the ones to collect the money.

So let me sum this up - WE are getting the benefit of USG services and paying less today. WE are incurring debts. WE will get paid later and THEY will pay. WE should not do that.

And the 24% is a big deal. If I go into the store and buy a can of Pepsi for $1 and as I walk out I toss the clerk 76 cents, I think they will call a thief.

Posted by: Jack at December 22, 2006 8:52 PM
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