I find it amusing that President Bush gets blamed for anything that goes wrong, including hurricanes.  But even I am incensed about this one.  Whatever his personal opinion might be—if he's aware of the situation at all—he surely bears part of the blame for the following insanity, because the president is ultimately responsible for the actions of his administration.From the Wall Street Journal:

The Bush administration said it will fight a ruling allowing meatpackers to test their animals for mad-cow disease. The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1% of slaughtered cows for the disease. Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows. A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. The Agriculture Department argues that widespread testing could lead to a false positive. Larger meat companies say if Creekstone tests its meat and advertises it as safe, they might be expected to perform the expensive test, too.

Huh?  Even a small-government advocate like me knows that one of the things government does best is enable higher standards than an unfettered free market can bear.

Suppose Company A and Company B both want to reduce their emmissions of pollutants.  If one takes on the added expense but the other doesn't, the second receives a decided market advantage over the first.  Even if they can agree to both reduce their emissions (without getting accused of illegal collusion), they are at risk from Company C which is not party to the agreement.

Enter governmental regulation:  If all companies in the industry are required to take on the expense, costs will rise, but more or less evenly.  (This is a very simplified analysis that doesn't take into account the problems of small businesses and other complicting factors, but you get the idea.)

So in this situaion I would expect to see the Department of Agriculture requiring more extensive testing to assure the safety of our food supply.  Instead, they are fighting a company that is voluntarily doing more for its customers than the USDA requires.  And why?

Because other meat companies might feel pressure to do more testing themselves?  This is a good thing!

Because widespread testing could lead to false positive results?  Well, yes, and I acknowledge that false positives can be a problem.  In any area.  By this logic we should abandon all mass screening from infant hearing checks to AIDS testing.  Somehow I don't think that's going to happen.

Perhaps we need a new test—one to screen members of the USDA for true concern for the safety of our nation's food.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 7:21 am | Edit
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