Guest Column: CAFOs’ rights come before individual citizens’ rights

By Victoria Grizzoffi

The GOP candidates are making pledges of cutting what seems to be our only safety net, the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In Illinois, we have seen firsthand how the federal EPA had to step in, clean house and enforce the laws that are there to protect us. As long as lobbyists and corporations are able to buy legislators and the pollution is not in their back yards or affects their families, the opposition is labeled as extreme fanatics and something to have the h— scared out of them.

The right paints a picture of the federal government controlling too much of our lives; yet, when it comes to agriculture, we in Illinois have no control, and more and more states are following suit. Just recently, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has caved under pressure, allowing the largest dairy to expand even larger in spite of citizens’ pleas against it. This factory farm can increase size, without notification or authorization from anyone. Citizens surrounded by large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations have nowhere to turn when their lives are ruined by an industry that pollutes the air, ground and water with ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, E. coli, antibiotics, drug-resistant E. coli, salmonella, and a host of other lethal pathogens. The right is obviously only concerned about corporations’ rights, not human rights. Over time, our individual rights have been taken away by making agriculture exempt from local control, and that’s very American as long as it profits a Limited Liability Corporation. Tea, anyone?

The families who have farmed for generations are squeezed out by these tycoons, and it’s almost impossible for a young family to start new. Those who have had to give up farming are often left with guilt and shame of believing that they did something wrong. This mental abuse from agencies that are supposed to represent them and work with them only profits LLCs by buying up these smaller farms because the CAFOs need more land to dispose on.

But why should the people in the urban areas care about what happens far away in the country? The industry will say that they are feeding the world and keeping prices down, but we all know that world hunger has nothing to do with production and everything to do with distribution. Industrial factory farming affects them by the antibiotic-resistant E. coli, and other lethal pathogens that are too often found in the food they put in their and their children’s mouths. It takes time, but contaminated groundwater travels for miles. It’s a guessing game exactly when and where contaminated water will show up, but it will; it has.

We teach our children to wash their hands, we are told to cook meats and eggs thoroughly because it takes personal responsibility to eat safe.

I’d like to know, exactly how much responsibility does it take when we turn on a faucet, breathe air, open a bag of spinach or jar of peanut butter?

Victoria Grizoffi is a concerned citizen who lives in Galena, Ill.

From the Dec. 21-27, 2011, issue

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