Schneier on Security
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October 20, 2006
This interesting article in The New York Times illustrates that the problem of agricultural safety and security mirrors the security issues in computer networks, especially with the monoculture in operating systems and network protocols.
Posted on October 20, 2006 at 5:20 AM
• 30 Comments
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The story is bull. Food has never been safer. What's changed is the demands we make. In previous centuries, getting enough calories and protein was our main challenge, and a few incidents of food poisoning was the acceptable cost.
Note that the author says that "our food supply now" kills 5,000 Americans every year, but doesn't give comparative historical figures.
Now we've solved the availability problem (and arguably gone too far), and started noticing the food poisoning.
"Much of the available statistical evidence for the modern rise of food poisoning can be discounted, distorted as it is by changing perceptions of illness and health, and by the increased availability and affordability of medical care.- "Soc Hist Med HARDY 12 (2): 293.
Interesting. Over the past couple of years in my "other life" I have been looking at the source-to-table processes of food in the USA. Trust me, it's not something you want to read about near mealtime.
From a risk management / economic point of view, I understand why major producers want to patch the problem rather than fix it at the source, but it flies in the face of what I preach in my day job. And unless you want to live on a totally self-sufficient commune, it affects everyone: You can succumb to what's in that jar of corriander you bought as easily as what's on that leaf of spinach or in that hamburger.
Actually, our food supply is dangerously vulnerable to natural setbacks - disease, insect pests, etc., because not only is it basically monoculture, but because the past several decades of chemical-intensive farming have started producing resistant pests.
Then, of course, there is the Soil Erosion issue
), which while not strictly related to monoculture agriculture, is direclty related to the concomitant agricultural techniques and policies.
"Trust me, it's not something you want to read about near mealtime."
I've read a lot about it. I agree; it's not good mealtime conversation.
I just wrote an entry yesterday about the FDA's Centennial, with links to and descriptions of a selection of articles (pro and con) about its founding, evolution, and modern times (including "The Vegetable-Industrial Complex" linked to in your entry, in re FDA "scale-neutral" regulatory affect on small producers).
@David, that's a very cool tool, thanks.
@Ian, you're right that comparative historical figures would have improved the article. But when anything DOES go wrong with our highly centralized food system, it will affect more people in more areas simultaneously, and be harder to track back. It's the same with pre-bagged salads as hamburger.
Three little points,
1) Due to our cleanliness in our modern living, we do not have the same resistance to pathogens that we used to have so we do get sick more easily than our ancesters and those living a more "natural life" growing their own veg etc. and eating their "little peck of dirt".
2) In a free market economy you usually get what you pay for, or what the producer thinks you want. So if they think you want food at the lowest possible cost than that is what they are going to make, and cut just about every corner and fill it full of junk to still make a profit.
3) 99% of food related illness is as a result of easily avoided mistakes in its storage / cooking or more usually unsafe preperation.
So my advise (which is what I follow where I can) buy/grow fresh raw vegtables/fruit, and unpacked cuts of meat (never ever minced/force meat or it's products). Get your produce from places you know and trust that have been around for a good few years.
Wash you, your food and your utensiles and cook the food yourself, freeze or throw the leftovers imediatly. Eat food whilst it's still hot.
In general with meat the most dangerous pathogeans are anerobic so don't use plastic bags or boxes or other air tight containers for meat storage when it is not frozen/freezing/defrosting. When puting food into a store such as a fridge either use two or more fridges or cooked at the top raw at the bottom with vegtables above meat.
The best cooking for flavour and food safety is long and slow especialy with poultry (chicken / turkey / duck / goose etc). Also less expensive and better flavourd cuts of meat are for slow cooking so you win in both the flavour and cost stakes you might even have lower fuel bills as well ;)
In the UK people have and do eat meat that is actualy roting and has maggots crawling out of it we call it "hung game". As long as it has not been put in a sealed container and has been properly cooked you are very unlikley to get sick (you might get unwell from thinking about it but not from food pathogens ;)
Likewise in continental Europe raw meat that has quite literally been hanging around for months is eaten with great pleasure as Salamies and other "air cured" like jamon meat products. Think about this next time you have anti pasta those thin strips of meat with all the wonderful flavor is uncooked and has been hanging around for months...
And always remember,
"You are what you and your ancestors ate"
The more people there are in the world, the more we need to raise for food to feed them. The more food we need, the less we can rely on organic and other "nice" farming techniques as we quickly need to use GE foods and employ other technologies to improve the yield.
Whether these will create monoculture plants or not is not clear as GE foods will no doubt continue to adapt and thus will create ever more types of plants, perhaps more than would occur naturally because the change is done on purpose and very pointedly with GE versus the older styles of eliciting desirable traits from plants.
The real problem is that as there are more people to feed, a food failure will be more catastrophic because there are more people relying on the sources of these foods.
"The more people there are in the world, the more we need to raise for food to feed them"
Yes it's a nasty problem. Not only do we have to deal with rising population but we will probably see more parts of the world become unable to support agriculture due to global warming. Look to Rwanda to see where this can lead; everybody knows about the ethnic tensions that lead to genocide but less well known is their problem of high population density and decreasing soil fertility. Competition for scarce resources was a factor in starting the killings.
Although the NYT article is interesting and makes some good points, I suggest that possible future wars over land and water in some parts of the world should be cause for greater concern.
The potential for agricultural terrorism isn't very nice either.
Sorry for drifting off topic a bit.
Some years back, how many escapes me, it was discovered that truckloads of dirt were being added to grain shipped overseas (at the ship loading point on the Gulf Coast). The reason: the grain put on the ships was significantly above the standard accepted for level of impurities. Since the tons of foreign matter was cheaper than the grain placed in the ships, additional profit was earned, as long as the amount of foreign matter did not place the overall shipment below the acceptable standard for the shipment.
Monoculture? Hell no, just greed.
"unless you want to live on a totally self-sufficient commune, it affects everyone"
Which is why I've long suggested that every few blocks had one house which provided a garden for the rest of the neighborhood and that was the job of the people owning the one house with the large garden, and the people in the neighborhood would pay them depending on whatever payment method worked out for the neighborhood, it would be a neighborhood garden. Likewise, one house per few blocks could also be devoted to the raising of livestock and supported by the surrounding neighbors as well.
I dislike the idea of a central grocery store or stores, just as I dislike the idea of central farms and the like: we need to get back to our roots and have communities support the community and take the corporations out of the process.
Ian Eiloart wrote:
"The story is bull. Food has never been safer. What's changed is the demands we make. In previous centuries, getting enough calories and protein was our main challenge, and a few incidents of food poisoning was the acceptable cost."
I think this misses the point. The issue is not so much the safety of food as it is the issue of accountability when food turns out to be unsafe. In the past, relationships between consumers and producers was much more personal, and it remains this way among producers and consumers in local farmer's markets and other small, local venues. Producers of food intended to be distributed over large geographic areas face different demands than those who produce their food to be sold locally, face-to-face. In particular, the producers of widely-distributed food face intense pressure to minimize cost, and this is often accomplished by keeping labor costs as low as possible. This means an unskilled, and often minimally concerned workforce is used to harvest and prepare the food for distribution. In this situation it is hardly surprising that errors in preparation will occur. The people directly responsible for ensuring that the food is safe are not those who directly face the consequences when an error occurs. This is entirely different when the producer is the one who harvests, washes/prepares, and then directly sells the produce to the consumer at a local market.
I'd like to see a citation for the study behind this statement:
"These are animals that stand around in their manure all day long, eating a diet of grain that happens to turn a cow’s rumen into an ideal habitat for E. coli 0157:H7. (The bug can’t survive long in cattle living on grass.)"
Especially since, um, grains *are* grasses...
As for the article, it seems to be complaining not about monoculture, but just industrialization.
The bovine rumen is not adapted to digesting grains. It was designed and adapted over millenia for grass, weeds, tender leaves, etc. Grain-fed cattle are sick and get more sick each day they are in confinement. It takes intense management to prevent their natural deaths before slaughter time. And, no, grains are not grasses. Cows would rather eat the whole plant than the grain head alone. For an example of properly fed cows, look at dairy herds. Some grain is mixed into a ration of hay and minerals, plus plenty of pasture time. E. coli is still present in their manure, but they don't stand around in it all day long as do confined cattle. I don't know about the O's and H's, maybe O157:H7 is just an unlucky combination!
Feedlot vs Farms: Has anyone looked at this in the way the pharmaceutical industry has changed THEIR strategies?
When you divest livestock from a farm-- where each leg of the food chain operates in a symbiotic fashion-- you lose self-reliance, and, thus, have to spend money for something you got for free, before... and there are middle-men making money, too.
The problem is one of short-sightedness and illusory economic efficiency: it is far better to make and sell a treatment for the symptoms than it is to make a cure.
Consider, again, the pharmaceutical industry, who are only the most obvious folks with this mindset, but not the *only* ones: how much work are they doing on vaccines these days? Vaccines for common ailments, like Herpes Simplex, despite work on the Holy Grail of vaccines against quasispecies like HIV?
Heck, look at diabetic test kits-- the test strips are expensive... and no one will ever want to develop (much less market) a non-invasive variety that doesn't use something consumable... because, face it:
"There is good money to be made in prolonging the problem"
(see http://www.despair.com/consulting.html )
It's like how widespread SSRI anti-depressants are being prescribed, almost like candy. Instead of trying to *fix* the world, it's just screwing down the lid on the pressure cooker in order to maintain the illusion of normalcy.
Sorry for the rant.
A little further along this train of thought towards movie plot threats, how long until someone writes an article about how agricultural monoculture leaves us vunerable to economic terrorism? I believe it was the plot of On her majesty's secret service (the book, not the film) where blofeld was plotting to hypnotise attractive yet stupid young girls to introduce crop and livestock diseases in to British crops, and thus bankrupt the country.
A little foot and mouth here, a little avian flu there and you've cost the country billions in economic damage. Sooner or later, some smart and enterprising terrorist is going to figure out that he can damage us with little risk to himself by hitting us in the wallet.
With the rubbish that is sprayed on, ploughed in, injected, fed to, or otherwise absorbed during initial production ? The chemicals used to prolong storage, kill bugs, aid in processing, preserve the finished product, enhance or change its flavour, colour or texture ?
Relatively isolated incidents of specific immediate threats to life or safety affecting finite numbers of people in the tens, hundreds or even thousands will always be a concern, but the real concern to those of us who deal with food intolerance on a daily basis is the growing numbers of people who are realising how much they are affected by the *way* we grow, treat and process our food.
Food has never been more unsafe, and people have never been more trusting of it ...
This really depends on where you live, no? Some places I shope are clearly shifting back to locally-grown produce. It costs a few cents extra, but the quality is far higher. Some mega-ranchers I know keep some "pet" animals on the side that they personally raise, slaughter and offer to friends and special customers. This isn't pre-packaged blogna we're talking about, and it is apparently less regulated than the tomato market:
Of course cleanliness of food also raises the age-old topic of ritual (if not humane) practices like kosher/halal. Surprised noone jumped on that one...I say if you've ever had to watch/listen to a pig being tied and slaughtered by hand you're not likely to eat ham again no matter how safe anyone tells you it might be.
As an aside, I've also noticed an uptick in people keeping their own hens for eggs. Here's a humorous take on a do-it-yourself food-supply:
"With the rubbish that is sprayed on, ploughed in, injected, fed to, or otherwise absorbed during initial production"
Too true. One of the horrible externalities of industrial food production is the damage to other food sources. For example, spraying 2,4-D in agrivulture during the 70s and 80s (yes, Agent Orange is still used in the US) seriously damaged rivers and streams just to prop up the value of beef. I wrote about this a while ago...
Mercury pollution of water is a horrible by-product of agriculture. You don't want to eat fish in Iowa anymore, if you know what I mean.
Or, if you're reading the advisories literally, Iowa has fish that are safe to eat, but due to toxic levels of waste you are warned not to eat more than one fish a week. And then there is the problem of treating all the manure and the occaisonal spill.
"Crews on Sunday were still working to contain and clean up more than 500,000 gallons of spilled manure that made its way to a small creek that runs into the West Fork of the Des Moines River. [...] No one will be able to look for the fault in the system for some time because it's buried."
Interesting comment about these disasters posted here:
"These spills seem to be happening quite frequently lately but you never hear nothing more about them after a couple days.Why is that?If I took a shocking device and wiped out 25 miles of river Id be in prison, lose my hunting/fishing rights, have a fine in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and be in every tv show, newspaper, and magizine till my trial was over.Why, cause its against the law to kill that many fish.So why do these guys get what amounts to a slap on the wrist and then go right back to business as usual??"
Not my idea of agriculture security...
@ Ian however that does not discount the monoculture argument, nor the concern. It refers to mass-food, gentech, pesticides or a combination of that although it should also add chemicals added to food. There used to be a distributin and price problem where people were not able to get much proteins, since starches (e.g. potatoes, pasta, rice) were only affordable. Meat was luxary not afforded by the masses (but was never the sole base for proteins since many, vegetables contain proteins just as well and you need a full amino-acid chain to get the effect you wish for else the proteins are just similar in effect to a slow starch (fuel)). Now you can buy a cheap burger at your local fast-food store, containing a large percentage of GM soy, and made from "low-quality" meat. Meat also always contains many different cultures of bacteria (vegetables too, especially those which weren't "cured" ahem with pesticides). Meat starts rotting when the animal is slaughtered. We also have the lazyness/time constraint factor: people rather buy pre-processed and fast-food than fresh food, and some still think 30 years behind thinking only calories and proteins matter.
@ Clive Robinson, you make some good points. Regarding point 2: there are also industry concerns, and there is ignorance on quality. FDA and equivalants in other countries are heavily influenced by the meat & dairy and pharmaceutical industries (wrt drugs (to name examples: cannabis, ephedra and the counterexample of tabacco), but also chemicals added; Aspartame is cheaper than Stevia, MSG is cheaper than salt + spices). Buying/growing fresh raw vegetables/fruit is wise, as long as you consume them quickly when they're ripe. It is not always easy to schedule such in your life especially when you're not used to it. See also the lazyness and ignorance factors. Washing food contradicts (not really but sortof) your point #1, and washing + cooking kills good bacteria as well. You do not have to cook all your food, cooked food is in general less healthy than raw. If you insist or have to, steaming is great for both taste and preserving the structure of food. With regards to meat, you're correct. Nice touch on the ancestors part, we won't see the effect of our lifestyle in e.g. the genes of our next generations, but we should care nevertheless.
@ David, wrt to food shortage, that is incorrect. There is no food shortage, our Western societies kick away tons of food each day. There is a food distribution problem and a lacking economy to distribute (and develop a market for) food in "the 3rd world" whereas food (and more important, consumable water) are lacking, not allowing "3rd world" countries to thrive. GE (GM) was claimed to solve that (nm the "side effects"), but as far as I've seen that hasn't happened. The real problem with GM is that we do not know the effects of GM food on the long term. For example, it may happen that a certain GM gene 30% of the world daily consumes makes them immune to bacteria A, but vulnerable to bacteria B. That is an example and analogue to the software monoculture. What if we all run Windows XP and a virus remotely removes (by overwriting data) all our hardware? What if we figure that out once we all run Windows XP and are vendor locked-in (ie. depending, or past has changed present irreverable with catastrophic damages)? To _limit_ such, we should keep varieties of strains of various species.
What is missing in this whole debate is exercise. Due to technical advancement, time constraint, lazyness people do less exercise. You can eat proteins all day, if you do not exercise your muscles, they won't get better. For me its no problem, since my job involves using my body and I love it far more than a deskjob. For those who have a deskjob, go to work by car / public transport and spend the weekend behind TV with a sixpack, a short daily exercise workout, fitness centre, martial art, or other sport is highly recommended or dare I say necessary.
Also, do not forget that drinkable water is far more important than any food problem. The way we threat our Earth it potentially becomes a problem for us all.
"I say if you've ever had to watch/listen to a pig being tied and slaughtered by hand you're not likely to eat ham again"
It depends on your age, I first saw it when I was around five and from your point of view it had no real effect on me as I still eat Ham and other pork products. The reason by the way for the "live blead" or "blead out" is firstly to get the blood for making pudings and secondly to have pale coloured flesh (which supposedly preserves better for bacon making etc, though I have seen no science on the matter).
However it did have an effect on me as I have sought out more humain ways to kill a pig and other farm animals and supported it by buying product from those who use it.
One real issue that has also not been mentioned, is "where do children think meat comes from"? Most children see a lump of flesh free of blood and other visable contamination on a white plastic tray wraped in "shrink wrap" plastic etc. Or worse they never see it in the raw state at all, just between a couple of buns in a "fast food pit stop" sloped up by an ill manered grease jocky, is it any wonder they have no respect for the food they eat, and just chuck the waste on the ground (to feed vermin) etc.
Also nobody has mentioned hormons and antibiotics in the food chain, how about that "little problem" in Mexico not so long ago when chickes where slaughtered before they should have been and it was reported at the time that girls as young as three where exhibiting the early signs of puberty due to the ingestion of the hormons?
Sure good food costs a little extra, but how much is your health care and life premiums costing you?
If nobody can get rid of the poppies in Afghanistan, I would guess that corn, beans, and wheat will survive in North America as well.
Ah, the politics of fear. There's nothing like a good old "food scare story". The fact is, food scare stories are among the most poplar of urban myths, and nearly all of them are at least wildly exaggerated, if not complete bunkum. In reality our food supplies have never been safer, nor more rigorously surveilled for infractions against rigid safety standards.
This example is a great case in point. The worst food scare story from the US for the year 2006 was an outbreak of food poisoning in which 199 people (out of 1/3 billion USAians) became ill and three died. This is not being treated as a trifling matter; the FBI is already investigating the processor responsible to see if they faked their quality control tests. If so, someone is going to prison for this. But to put the incident in perspective, in the total of all incidents, the same food borne disease kills an average of 61 USAians per annum, while 73 are killed by lightning bolts. The "Vegetable-Industrial Complex" has made deaths from food borne illness EXTREMELY RARE.
It would take entire books to analyse some of the tales that float around, but one which can be shredded in seconds is the monoculture myth. It's total bunk. Of the world's major food crops, the only one for which it is even approximately true are bananas; the dessert banana export trade is dominated by one cultivar, the Cavendish. The reason for this vulnerability is that dessert bananas are propagated by cloning, the only major food crop for which this occurs. However dessert bananas are not a staple, and there are more than a dozen other banana & plantain species in local production as food staples.
Wheat has six species in commercial production; production is dominated by one species, Triticum aestivum (the other 5 only account for about 5% of world production), but T. aestivum has 5 subspecies and more than TWO HUNDRED commercial cultivars.
There are two species of true rice (both in commercial production) and 4 species of "wild rice" (two of them in large scale commerical production, one in small scale production, and one rare). Between these there are at least 40 cultivars in large scale commerical production, with hundreds of others known, (and the number being studied by the rice biodiversity project possibly reaching the thousands.) Even this does not tell the whole story; for example, the popular American cultivar "Calrose" (a cultivar of the japonica subspecies of Oryza sativa) has at least half a dozen known "strains".
Maize has only one species in significant commercial production, Zea mays. This was formerly subdivided into 8 subspecies but the number of cultivars is so enormous that for this species a special genetic classification system has been devised, which goes 4 levels deep below "species".
Sorghum is an entire genus with more than 30 distinct species in production; while millet is a grab bag term for at least nine different species which aren't even in the same genus.
To cut a long story short ("too late!", they cry), the idea that major food crops are monocultures is a nice frightening story but it is pure fiction.
"Ah, the politics of fear. There's nothing like a good old "food scare story". The fact is, food scare stories are among the most poplar of urban myths, and nearly all of them are at least wildly exaggerated, if not complete bunkum. In reality our food supplies have never been safer, nor more rigorously surveilled for infractions against rigid safety standards."
I agree with you that this discussion can be quite intimidating. I also agree that the food supplies with regards to quantity, are quite safe.
But what you negate with a global statement such as that followed by 2 specific examples, is for example obesitas. A major problem in the US and rising fast in EU as well. In contrast, with major numbers people from poor regions in the world barely have food or at best follow a monotonous diet.
How many of those you name are GM? How many of those are being sprayed with Monsanto's round-up? GM can cross-contaminate, and such is a true problem with Monsanto's legal dept as well as non-GM crops themselves. Various documented cases on that. Do you have references of a society where all the people eat exactly the same food for more than say 200 years? I don't. Then there is a by Monsanto patented GM crop which has a gene which self-terminates after a year. Think if that cross-contaminates with non-self-terminating crops. Then, the EU and US subsidize their agriculture, completely demolishing competitors who are able to provide food for cheaper prices. Mexican corn, for example, has no chance to compete against US corn even on Mexican soil! Do you really want that? Is that fair? Healthy? Not dangerous?
Fine if you don't believe (all) the health aspects, we will see who is right, we learn by making mistakes, and probably not all would be lost (e.g. because there are communities who will never eat GM); in contrast to the "too late" outcry. But, regarding the economic aspects, they are real.
(If you have references to the various species, I'm interested.)
With regards to the pig, and chickens, after I had seen the videos on that I was severely traumatized by the disgusting practice that every time I read the word meat, see someone eating meat, I feel disgusted and feel the need to do something about that practice. Although some animals live freely when they provide resources for food, or grow as a resource for food, most are not. It is much like an Auswitz, except that it existed longer and that beings are breeded to serve as resource instead of being imprisoned for labour and/or for a gas chamber lasting not more than a few years, and concerning human beings of a specific race (and culture/lifestyle) instead. Its a personal choice though, but a natural and easy one to me which I can recommend. Now, if you want to talk about propaganda, we can discuss how society is made to believe meat is needed in a healthy diet... by the very same people who test our food... credible source of trust?
> for example obesitas. A major problem in the US and rising....
Where did that come from? We were talking about crop security.
> How many of those you name are GM?
Well under 1%.
> How many of those are being sprayed with Monsanto's round-up?
Of the crops I mentioned, the only one for which there even exists a Monsanto "roundup ready" strain is maize. So for wheat, rice, bananas, sorghum and millet (as well as barley, rye, oats, etc.) the answer is "none of them".
About 9% of world maize production, by mass, was of GM strains; most of that in the USA.
The largest GM crop is soybeans, which are the single most important oilseed but a minor crop in comparison to cereals. About 80% of the worldwide commercial harvest, by mass, comes from GM varieties, largely because of a substantial increase in US consumption over the last decade -- an increase fuelled by claims of health benefits which have since been thrown into serious doubt. Among other things, it has now been proven that excessive soybean consumption suppresses thyroid function, symptoms of which include chronic fatigue and obesity.
> GM can cross-contaminate, and such is a true problem with Monsanto's legal dept as well as non-GM crops themselves. Various documented cases on that.
You may be referring to the infamous Monsanto v. Schmeiser case, which has been grossly misrepresented by Schmeiser's advocates (and anti-GM activists). Monsanto's legal claims did originally claim against Schmeiser's 1997 crop, which Schmeiser claimed had been accidentally contaminated with GM seed from neighbour's farms. This excuse was unlikely to be true (the number of "contaminated" plants was far too large), but Monsanto withdrew all their claims against that crop anyway. The claim that Schmeiser lost was against his 1998 crop; there was never any suggestion that was accidental, rather there was clear evidence that he had his farmworkers deliberately collect "Roundup Ready" seeds and sow them exclusively over some 98% of his fields, without paying Monsanto's royalty.
> Do you have references of a society where all the people eat exactly the same food for more than say 200 years? I don't.
Well first, yes; there are many examples. To pick a few at random, there are parts of Asia where the same strain of rice has been the dietary staple for more than a thousand years, while the "Three Sisters" formed the basis of much Native American agriculture for at least 1500 years (and possibly as much as 8,000 years). And on a similar, but orthogonal strand, the Inuit (and before them, the Thule people) consumed a diet of mainly marine mammal meat and blubber, a lesser amount of wildfowl and fish, and almost zero vegetable component, for at least 1300 years (and were very healthy with it, too!)
But in any case, who is talking about 200 years? Patents only last for 20 years. The Roundup patent has actually already expired, and the patent on "Roundup Ready" soybeans expires in 10 months time, in August 2007.
> Then there is a by Monsanto patented GM crop which has a gene which self-terminates after a year. Think if that cross-contaminates with non-self-terminating crops.
The so-called "terminator gene" is not for agricultural crops; it is a safety mechanism to stop GM crops from escaping into the wild whilst still being tested. It also isn't exactly one year, it is one generation. And it isn't a gene, which can cross-contaminate, it is a chemical treatment. Monsanto does have several other "genetic termination" patents but none of them have even been proposed for field trials, never mind commercialised.
> It is much like an Auswitz,...
Well, that's really nailing your colours to the mast, isn't it. Plonk.
In re security analogies between food production and information handling, please allow me to be personal and to speak in American vernacular.
I'm slowly trending toward being a farmer. As such, I am a bit involved in farming issues. I believe the one I will now raise with you is of interest to you as security types and as people who regularly demonstrate that skepticism that Santayana called "the chastity of the intellect."
Taking effect soon is something called the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Excepting that the human animal is exempt, it is everything that the Biblical mark-of-the-beast would be. Regardless of your beliefs, it is also the kind of affront to privacy ("the right to be left alone") and dignity ("innocent until proven guilty") that might serve to unite us here, here where we are often otherwise markedly divided.
The short form: All animals excepting "household pets" and you must be registered, micro-chipped, their owner's registered and GPS located, and all movement of animals must be reported, with coordinates, within twenty-four hours of said movement. No animal may enter the food stream, or be bought or sold, without this. Though the program is called "voluntary" it has a side clause that permits compelling those who do not volunteer.
A power to bind them all will, of course, soon exist ("multiple secure databases"). For those of you especially fond of calling a usurpation a usurpation, factory farms are generally exempt (confined chickens, say). The justification is safety and health and, as is now de rigeur, bioterrorism.
Speaking for myself and other small farmers, this is ruinous economically even besides the liberty and freedom issues which, of course, are paramount. In the horse show business (meaning our farm, inter alia), this has another side clause that requires any facility in which animals owned by multiple owners are "co-mingled" to be responsible for compliance of all animals so co-mingled. Far bigger than we are, take the major NY State hunter-jumper show in August at Saguerties; 25,000 animals over a six week period are co-mingled. Most come from distant farms, many cross state lines, and if we are typical, we bring 6-8 animals. That we crossed state lines also negates the voluntary clause, as you doubtless would have guessed.
It is not clear this can be stopped, and I can say with some certainty that national broadcast media have time and again decided that there is no news here. I've put two fliers (that I am distributing at our own farm and shows) produced by the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance on the page below. In case it is not clear, I do not want to improve this, I want to strangle it in its crib.
Thank you for listening. All errors are mine.
--dan, who kills what he eats and eats what he kills
Dan, some of what you have been told about this program is severely exaggerated for dramatic effect. I suggest you read the USDA's response, to be found at:
* It is not only voluntary, there are no enforcement provisions of any kind. That is because the NAIS is seen as a valuable service to farmers. If they don't want it, too bad.
* It is simply not true that no animal may enter the food stream without a NAIS ID. NAIS is to assist in more accurately and rapidly establishing quarantine in a disease outbreak, it is not related to the food safety program.
* it covers all the important species raised for food or wool, but there are many species not covered, not just pet cats and dogs.
* There is NOT any requirement at all for microchipping. How participants identify an animal to USDA is their own concern, most will probably continue to use ear tags.
* There is not any GPS or real time tracking component. That is pure fiction issued from Rumour Central.
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of BT.