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POLITICALLY CORRECT FOOD

Have you ever noticed that there is a preferred class of food portrayed in the media? It is the small organic farm. You have never seen a story about how mass produced foods by giant Agribusiness feeds the world, or how the predicted worldwide famine (popular in the 1970’s due to population increase) never happened because of the yield improvements of the large American Industrial Farmers. Politically correct organic food is portrayed as how things used to be before the chemicals and the big business got into our food. Did you know that the recent E. coli outbreak in Europe came from been sprouts from an organic farm? Maybe the fact that it came from an organic farm isn’t important to the story, or maybe that should be up to the news consumer to decide.

We cannot have our news media deciding which of the facts are important and not important, but that is exactly what they do. You cannot know everything about every story, but we rely upon news sources to sift out the pertinent facts. This E. coli story shows the bias that exists towards organic foods in most media organizations. If you think that your news does not go through a prism of politically correct filters before it reaches you, you are living in a fantasy world. Try to find a story about the E. coli incident that happens to mention the fact that it came from an organic farm. Most large news organizations are not including this important detail in their reporting. Of the two locations found mentioning this fact, one was a liberal health type website interested in dispelling fears of swearing off organic food (http://www.anh-usa.org/the-european-e-coli-outbreak-the-real-story/).

Issues are simple if they are black & white, and they are also easier for reporters. Most subjects are more complex and take more time to explain, and when the story is cut for time or print space the editing is vitally important. For whatever reason (often political) there is a template at most news organizations on each issue, and they wish to continue that narrative no matter where the facts lead. This has a direct effect on the stories that reporters go after as well as the content that makes “the news”. There are regular stories that are anti big business, and the food industry is no exception. Stories about how Monsanto is basically forcing people to use their seeds, or how big business is squeezing out the small family farmer are in the regular news rotation.

Imagine if food giant ADM (Archers Daniels Midland) had been responsible for this outbreak and the 3200+ affected as well as the 36 deaths that it caused. You can just see the stories that would be generated for the next few months. “ADM kills 36 and how many more?”…”Have we let industry take over our precious food supply?”…”Salary of ADM executives compared to the family farmer”…”Food subsidies being wasted”…”More money needed on inspections”…”ADM lobbyists watered down safe food law”. There would be a hearing in Congress where CEO’s of the big agribusinesses are asked probing grandstanding questions about how safe the food supply is.

I am not advocating or condemning organic foods or the family farm. They are not even mutually exclusive as there are big agribusinesses that produce organic food. What I am saying is this should be worthy of further investigation, and the exclusion of the word organic in the reporting up to this point does not give me a warm and cozy feeling about the information to come. If you compare this outbreak to other food related illnesses, more people have been killed in this incident than any I can find in the past 10 years, perhaps 20 years. Some organic farms use chemical based fertilizers similar to large industrial farms, but some use animal manure. The way one gets E. coli is to ingest feces. Gee is it just possible there is a story here? Hopefully we are still early in the reporting cycle such that these further questions will be investigated.

This story has the extra weight of the preconceived template of the media about the goodness of organic foods, and this must be broken in order to get to the truth. There are two different types of bias that I have seen in the media. One is when a media organization advocates a policy, and is almost always easy to spot. The other more destructive form of bias is not telling a story, or not revealing pertinent facts for the consumer to make a balanced judgment. We must all be vigilant in revealing this second form of bias. Our system and even our health are at risk.

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