On the Edge of Common Sense 12-14-09
The anti-progress Luddites have taken some serious blows in the last six months. A British study shows that animals and crops raised under strict organic parameters, have no nutritional or health benefits over animals and crops grown with FDA/USDA approved insecticides, pesticides, parasitacides, antibiotics, chemical disinfectants and growth stimulants. Then, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative medicine completed a 10-year, $2.5 billion study that determined the unproven, but heavily-promoted benefits of “Alternative Medicine,” for the most part, have zilch medicinal value just as their label proclaims.
Food safety issues have been in the news lately. Outbreaks have stimulated greater scrutiny as each incidence of illness occurs. Recently, E. coli in hamburger and the demand to legalize the sale of raw milk universally are making us examine the debate between “the common good” vs. “right to personal choice.”
Standing in the room of the hysterical hamburger hoorah is the John Wayne of solutions … irradiation! That’s right! X-ray your ground beef and it eliminates E. coli and salmonella. But standing in the way of this immediate solution are the Luddites! These cautious obstructionists have managed to prevent the use of irradiation, thus the elimination of bacterial poisoning at the source, the packinghouse. Granted, mishandling by retailers and consumers down the line can still allow these potentially disease-causing organisms to propagate, but gosh! Why let them in the backfield if you can stop them at the line of scrimmage? Raw milk, meaning unpasteurized, was a common source for the tuberculosis organism. When pasteurization was established and required by law, uncountable millions of cases of death and disease were prevented.
But … do individuals have the right to drink raw milk and consume un-irradiated ground meat if they choose? And further, do they have the right to prevent others, often the majority, from benefiting from the health advantages of pasteurized milk and irradiated hamburger? In my opinion, the answer to the first is yes … they have the right to choose for themselves, the same as vegetarians, smokers, steroid users, long distance runners, over-eaters and bull riders can choose their own abnormal lifestyle as long as it is available and legal.
The answer to the second is no. The Luddites do not have the right to prevent others from making their own choice. The tricky issue is: Do parents have the right to give their own children raw milk, irradiated hamburger, BBQ, raw fish, vitamin overdoses, peanut butter or too much ice cream? Or the right to decline for their children to participate in Meatless Monday or Fruitless Tuesday or flu shots? Does the community have the right to intervene?
In any civilization, courts, legislators, bureaucrats, and occasionally the voters make choices for us all and there is no guarantee that common good, common men or common sense will prevail.
The less you know, the easier the decisions. With knowledge comes responsibility, and that’s the rub.
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