Re: Life is not black and white. Get real
Why we don't need the government to inspect meat.
The FDA Wants You To Tell It How To Tell You What To Do
by Brad Edmonds
by Brad Edmonds
The Associated Press reported recently that the FDA has found no evidence so far that milk or meat from cloned cows would present any danger to consumers. So far, this makes sense: If the cow who donated the DNA for the clone doesnt pose any danger to you, neither should the equivalent of the cows identical twin. Things get murkier after that opening statement, however. The FDA still wont approve such foods for market because, and (à la Dave Barry) Im not making this up, "The FDA wants public reaction to its assessment of clonings impact on the food supply before it decides if cloned farm animals will require government approval before being sold as food a decision expected to take another year."
What a rich sentence! The convoluted main clause means the FDA wants to know what the public thinks of the FDAs own findings that the food is safe. Isnt that what the (unconstitutional) Food and Drug Administration is being paid to do in lieu of our being trusted to decide for ourselves whether food is safe? According to the FDA itself, their budget for next year is $1.7 billion, an increase of $79.6 million over last year. Would the FDA please ask for my reaction to that? But I digress. If the public says the right um, maybe I mean wrong thing about the FDAs declaration regarding food safety, only then will the FDA decide to regulate the food itself. Would the FDA please just go straight to the point, and ask us whether we want them regulating cloned food? And would the FDA please learn that meat producers already have the strongest possible incentive to provide safe meat imagine how long a company would survive producing meat even slightly suspected to be tainted.
The families of products the FDA regulates include food, drugs, vaccine and blood supplies, medical devices, animal feed and drugs, cosmetics, radiation-emitting products, and "combination products" (products made of more than one thing the FDA regulates). Hence, the FDA regulates thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of individual products already in the market. No one agency or government can hope to tackle such a task reliably or efficiently. They couldnt possibly gather enough information, on any budget, in any reasonable length of time. Thats just one of the problems when you try to do anything important by first centralizing all of the decision-making power over a large market.
What has the FDAs success record been? Only FDA-approved ground beef has killed American children, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. Only FDA-approved drugs have had to be pulled off the market because they started killing patients for whom they were prescribed. There is a counterargument "how many more dangerous products might we have in the absence of the FDA?" A safe answer would be "fewer." Without a central government agency ensuring the safety of our food supply, restaurants and grocery stores would have to rely on their own expertise, and people cooking at home would have to inspect their own food. But of course, we all do this already.
Without the FDA, there can be no doubt private organizations would arise to fill the food-safety gap. There would be a Meat Consumer Reports telling us which packing houses are trustworthy, and private newspapers would publish the names of packing houses that either get low scores or refuse to be inspected. Already, medium-market television stations and newspapers routinely publish food-safety problems with local restaurants and grocery stores. Already, foods labeled "kosher" by established organizations or local rabbis are trustworthy far beyond the level of assurance provided by the FDA.
Already, Mercedes and Volvo send engineers out on the road to inspect real-world wrecks. Not only do these engineers have more personal incentive than government bureaucrats to learn from available data, the private engineers get better data: Since the engineers cant give the drivers speeding tickets, the drivers feel free to tell the engineers how fast they were really going. I wouldnt want to drive a Mercedes or Volvo, but theyre certainly the safest cars in the world to wreck. These manufacturers far exceed what can be gained from relying on the governments sterile laboratory crash tests, and while associated accounting information is closely held by the manufacturers, you can expect that the costs associated with the engineers are more than recouped by the enhancement in public image: Both companies cars sell briskly around the world, even though they tend to offer fewer amenities and lower performance for the dollar than do several other first-rate carmakers. Mercedes and Volvo vehicles arent selling at marginal cost. Indeed, all automakers have a strong incentive, provided by the market itself (without a dime needing to be spent on regulation), to provide safe vehicles an automobile suspected to be unsafe would sell about as well as meat suspected to be tainted.
The FDA, in every respect, meets the same low standards set by the DMV and every government agency, and that they do so is inevitable: Bureaucrats who make the rules and punish those who fail to follow them have nothing to lose when theyre wrong, and nothing to gain when theyre right. Your local salesman and such outfits as Consumer Reports have at stake personal reputations and livelihoods, whether the product in question is guns, butter, cars, or advice. Further, there is no incentive whatever for anyone to produce an unsafe product, food and drugs especially, while at the same time there are strong incentives to produce safe products. And the FDA wants the public to react to its announcement that cloned food is safe, suggesting that poll results are going to be used to regulate food safety in the future. This adds to the FDAs résumé. Now, not only is this agency bloated, inefficient, ineffective, and unresponsive (as any government agency will be, anywhere in the world) its also a punch line.
November 15, 2003
Brad Edmonds [send him mail] writes from Alabama.
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