Thursday, December 4, 2008

What's Your Poison?


Thomas Riggins

The tainted milk scandal in China is extensively reported on in the 28 November issue of Science: "Chinese Probe Unmasks High-Tech Adulteration With Melamine." Melamine is a deadly toxin but it is cheap. It mimics more expensive food additives in tests so you can make big bucks by adding it to food and pocketing the difference in the cost of the melamine. Last year it was pet food, this year baby formula. What's a few dead animals and babies?

The "High-Tech" in the title of the article is a reference to the fact that the people who perpetrated the adulteration had to have advanced scientific training to pull it off and fool the inspection agencies. Sanlu, one the biggest companies in China, was involved. The U.S. and Chinese governments are working together to insure the safety of Chinese food.

The problem is that food production under capitalism is for profit, not to feed people. Chen Junshi of the Center of Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing said, "Food adulteration is inevitable and will be with us for many years. The sophistication of the techniques will improve next time."

And just why is that? Li Shaomin, a professor at Virginia's Old Dominion University, provides the answer: "When millions of people experiment with new ways to make money without moral self-constraint, the chance of new products that can evade existing testing methods is pretty high."

Moral self-constraint has nothing to do with it. In an "its good to be rich" society, i.e., a society that fosters capitalist attitudes, the moral values that are stressed are those of making money and self-constraint is a contradiction to the prime directive of capitalism. Its not China. Just look at the product recalls every year in the U.S. and the refusal to test for Mad Cow Disease. Its the economy comrade!