What do you know about Food Disparagement Laws?

Until last night, I knew nothing about them… but as I attended the F.A.R.M. program (Food Art Revolution Media) last night it was one of the topics that Melinda and Dan Hemmelgarn discussed last night.

These laws currently exist in 13 states and do things like banning photographers from taking pictures of food processing plants, or writing articles protesting farms that spray their crops with Monsanto poisons, or just discussing in the public press (and no doubt in blogs like this one) the disadvantages of non-organic farming.

The food disparagement movement has major corporate support (Monsanto, Dow, Buckeye Eggs and others) and haul people into court with their heavy economic advantage if the smallest criticism is raised. This has been going on since the 1990’s (a lot of it came out because of films like “Food, Inc.” or the works of Michael Moore.)

Senator Patrick Leahy (D – Vermont) made this statement in the late ’90s concerning this situation:

Some states permit lawsuits against those who question the safety of our food supply. It is my view that under the First Amendment, Americans possess the right

Official photo of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Sen Patrick Leahy (D - Vermont)

to raise safety and health concerns about the foods we eat, such as the levels of mercury in our fish or the levels of pesticides in imported foods. State laws that permit lawsuits against those who question the safety of foods can have a chilling effect on public health discourse. That is not the American way –healthy debate on issues of public concern is how this country does business.

The FoodSpeak Coalition highlights the chilling effect that these laws have on the exercise of free speech. Defamation laws should not intimidate citizens and the press who want to speak out about food safety.

Americans in all states must be allowed to openly debate issues of public health.

Here, here!

I spoke with a woman at the meeting last night whose 5-year work on a book concerning the dangers of chemical spraying on US Agriculture has been filed away indefinitely because she is afraid of lawsuit under food disparagement laws… and West Virginia doesn’t even have such laws. States like Iowa and Florida are affecting the entire country.

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About btchakir

Retired Theatre Producer, Graphic Designer, Usability Tester and General Troubleshooter with a keen interest in Politics and The Stage. Currently heard on WSHC, 89.7 FM (on line at www.897wshc.org) and occasionally dabbling in Community Theatre.

Posted on April 27, 2011, in Word from Bill and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Most useful reminder. Thanks for posting. I have been kicked off a lot of mailing lists and discussion groups for my comments. The most recent, was Huffington Post, which, as many may know, recently sold out to corporate media.

    Monsanto thrives because of the disparagement laws that effectively exempt it from SLAPP suits, unfortunately. Big Pharma, responsible for over 100,000 needless deaths each year, also relies on the disparagement laws. I suspect the recent uproar over Taco Bell was a good example of Food Libel laws at work. The public need not worry, for Taco Bell apparently is trucking along without having missed a beat, although meat is still a rare gem in their meat tacos.

    I suggest we all leave the idiotic food disparagement terminology in the sewer where it belongs, and refer to these criminals as corporate SLAPP exemption laws. After all, isn’t that what they are?

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