Stanley Robinson

Princeton, Mo.

To the editor:

I was raised as a carnivore. Growing up we seldom had a meal that did not include meat. Habits formed early in life tend to be the hardest to change, so my meatless meals are rare.

Advice on methods to extend our life spans are everywhere. I have quit smoking, alcohol consumption is light and medication is regular. I suspect my additional time on Earth can best be measured with a clock rather than a calendar, so my diet concerns are few.

Mothers with young children have a different attitude. Their hopes, dreams and aspirations rightfully center on the health of their children. When these mothers grocery shop they recall the children killed by tainted Jack-In-The-Box hamburgers; they hear about the tons of recalled beef, pork and chicken; they have seen the downer cow being moved to the kill floor with a forklift. These consumers know that some livestock feed additives have a withdrawal period prior to slaughter, but they have no idea if this restriction was honored. As a result of fear, mom walks past the meat cooler, and little Jack and Jill are on the path to veggie world.

When consumers hear that genetically modified organisms are banned in numerous countries, but not in the United States, when consumers learn that 150 countries (not U.S.) ban Ractopamine as a feed additive, when they learn the incidence of Parkinson’s is greater in rural areas with the extra exposure to agricultural chemicals and when bacteria resistance is credited to the routine use of antibiotics as a feed additive, they become worried about everything they put on the table.

To restore faith in the wholesomeness of our food supply, the agriculture community lobbies for gag laws that impede evidence gathering on illegal or unethical food production. They explain that the government has no evidence that low levels of pesticides or GMOs are harmful and at the same time tell us that the government is a corrupt and inept organization. Producers declare they know best, thus giving the consumer two choices – take it or leave it.

How did we ever develop the mindset that food stamps, unemployment insurance or an increase in the minimum wage will increase government dependence, but farm subsidies will not? Would we not be well served working to instill faith in the quality and purity of our products?