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Flash in the Pan

Playing the name game

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Are french fries any different, now that they are called Freedom Fries? What about Freedom Toast, or Freedom Kissing? When I visualize the Freedom Inhale, I picture thumb and index finger pinching a hand-rolled cigarette, rather than the elegant stream of smoke moving from mouth to nose, a la the exiled French Inhale. Hey, let’s exile the Statue of Liberty back to France too—it’s probably just a Trojan Horse for French communists/terrorists preparing to swim across New York Harbor and “finish the job.”

Speaking of Trojans, we can’t forget the good old French Tickler. Ask me what I think of when I visualize the Freedom Tickler...I might tell you sometime in private. I’m not saying that Freedom Ticklers are perverted, but speaking of the Freedom Tickler, a perverted thing happened in Congress this past Valentine’s Day Eve. The meat of the issue was, again, “what’s in a name?” But this time, it was the name that stayed the same, while the meaning was perverted by corporate cheaters and their lap dog of a politician, appropriately named Nathan Deal (R-Georgia).

Mr. Deal managed to slip 10 extra lines into the 3,000-plus page Omnibus Appropriations Act, signed by President Bush on Feb. 20. These lines kidnapped the word “organic,” enslaving it to a meaning different from what the coiners of the term intended. These 10 lines, which constitute Section 771, make it possible for animal products to legally be labeled “organic” even if the animals ate non-organic food. The rider, which had nothing to do with the contents of the rest of the bill, was added at the request of Fieldale Farms, a Georgia chicken-processing company that contributed $4,000 to Mr. Deal during his last election campaign.

As soon as folks realized what went down, there was a swell of outrage from within and without the D.C. political establishment. Congressmen and congresswomen received thousands of angry messages from constituents, while they in turn denounced Deal’s shady deal with adjectives like “sleazy” and “chicken manure.” Even the Bush Administration denounced the maneuver, as did the USDA.

A bipartisan coalition formed to reclaim the label “organic” and force its adherence to the standard solidified last October. Lead by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Senator Olympia Snow (R-Maine), and co-sponsored by 39 other senators, the group drafted the Organic Restoration Act, which aims to restore the standards specified by the Organic Foods Production Act. A similar bill is being crafted in the House by Representatives Farr (D-California) and Kind (D-Wisconsin). Montanans should be happy to know that both Baucus and Rehberg support the Organic Restoration Act. You’d think Burns would oppose the act on the principle of defending sleazy maneuvers, but he too went on record supporting the Organic Restoration Act.

Originally passed by Congress in 1990, the Organic Foods Production Act weathered over ten years of attempts to weaken its definition of “org-anic” before the stringent standards demanded by an overwhelming majority of the commenting public were finally passed into law in October, 2002. The law guarantees that organic meat comes only from animals raised on 100 percent organic feed.

In creating a loophole for meat producers to use the “organic” label on meat that was fed non-organic feed, Mr. Deal’s rider threatens to unravel the ecology of relationships that keep this $12 billion industry growing at a rate of 20 percent annually. The meat producers willing to use non-organic feed would be able to undersell those who choose to stick to the true meaning of the label, because organic feed is more expensive than conventional. All of this activity would kill the demand for organic feed, making growers less inclined to grow it. Moreover, the move could set a precedent for future dilutions of the label.

On March 7, the Organic Trade Association ran a full page ad in The New York Times, calling on consumers to voice their outrage at Deal’s end-run, and to urge their politicians to support the Organic Restoration Act. The ad pictures a modified USDA organic seal, with the word “Organic” replaced with “Not Really Organic.”

What can you do about all this, dear reader? Well, if you have a senator or representative not mentioned above, urge them to support the Organic Restoration Act. You can also join the Organic Consumers Association. And if you are lucky enough to have Conrad Burns as your senator, send him a Freedom Tickler in gratitude for his support. Finally, ask your local store not to carry products by Fieldale Farms, including poultry under the Springer Mountain Farms or Redding labels. Even if the stuff is labeled organic, even if it is organic, those sleazeballs no longer deserve the public’s trust. And while you’re at it, why not send Rep. Nathan Deal a Freedom Butt-plug to put in his mouth, and a Freedom Rubber Chicken for him to choke all day long. That way, he could at least be a little bit more productive than he is in Congress.

E-mail Chef Boy Ari:
flash@missoulanews.com

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