What happens when you get the biggest raw milk proponents in the same room with the heaviest opposition and a bunch of legislators?
The day started out calm enough with Sally Fallon bringing raw milk to the House Office Building and setting up a delightful buffet for a few of us prior to the start of the hearing. Her raw milk, raw milk cheese, crackers and almond cookies. We visited with each other and discussed the benefits of the nourishing foods we advocated for.
When the hearing started, just after 1:00, the sponsors introduced the bill followed by the first panel–raw milk consumers. We testified about why we wanted raw milk available to us in our own state and with our own cows. (My full written testimony is below)
The scientific panel came next with a professor/doctor from Johns Hopkins who was there to give information on the bill and offered his personal experience only. He related that as a researcher, he would have been able to do approved research using cocaine, but not raw milk.
A microbiologist, Tim Fothergill, went into detail about the human microbiome and the importance of having access to plenty of probiotics including those found in raw milk. Nutrition and public health policy expert, Valerie Green, testified on the risk-assessment analysis of raw milk.
The farmer panel testified next with numerous reasons why they should be able to legally provide a product their communities want. Overall, the proponents of the bill did a fantastic job laying out clear and compelling reasons for the bill to be seriously considered.
Here is the recording of the hearing. Testimony for HB3 begins at the 29 minute mark. It includes the testimony of supporters as well as the opposition:
The real entertainment began with the Health Department’s testimony. A doctor and health department director testified on how dangerous raw milk is. They said the names of many scary sounding pathogens and talked about individual cases of children being ill. One of their favorite lines was about how adults might have the choice to drink raw milk, but children don’t if their parents give it to them.
Several of the delegates questioned how they came up with the statistics they used and asked for supporting information beginning about 2:05. Essentially, they said they could not understand how raw milk was the public health threat that the health department says it is.
Another delegate added a bit of pressure to the health department saying that this issue has come up for most of the past 10 years and it was time to do something about it. All in all, the hearing got information into the conversation, attracted the attention of the local media and provided for a continuation of the broader issue of consumer–and farmer–rights.
The next step, if it happens, is a vote on the bill. The chairman of the committee schedules–or doesn’t schedule–all the votes for every piece of legislation in his committee. Please keep up the calls and emails to the committee members and ask for a vote on HB3!
Liz Reitzig, Mother and Co-Founder, Farm Food Freedom Coalition
Before the Health and Government Operations Committee
Maryland House of Delegates
In Support of HB3
January 28, 2014
It is most unfortunate that the state of Maryland actively continues to criminalize hard working, peaceful farmers who produce a product people want. You’ll hear from the FDA about how dangerous raw milk is. And you’ll probably hear about thousands of illnesses attributed to the consumption of raw milk.
I, and thousands of other Marylanders have a secret to share with you that delegitimizes all their scary data: we have been drinking raw milk for YEARS and we have not gotten sick from it. Yes. Thousands of us. For years. And our children. And our grandparents.
And it is just not the threat the FDA says it is.
According to the FDA, we should all be dead. Or in the hospital. Or irreparably damaged. But that is simply not the reality. When reality conflicts with made up data, it’s time to take a closer look at that data.
I have heard from activists who were active during the civil rights era in the 50s and 60s. They say that food choice is the defining civil rights issue of the current generation. The fear of raw milk and the criminalization of farmers who produce it are powerful examples of a paradigm that does not serve anyone.
The current FDA accusations against raw milk, on examination, hold up about as well as the theory that the earth is the center of the universe, that the earth is flat or the “scientific racism” that was used for so many years to justify and uphold the status quo. It is all utterly absurd.
There is as much real-life basis to the raw milk prohibition as there is to the Scientific Racism claims that led to the Jim Crow laws of the 1800s and early 1900s. And, like the assertions of scientific racism, this “science” just does not hold up when examined, as you will hear from other testimony.
Today, and thankfully so, peaceful people can sit beside each other on a bus, go to school together and drink from the same water fountain. Peaceful people should also be able to come together in a voluntary and mutually beneficial arrangement for food and not be criminalized, punished or threatened for it.
History teaches us, as with the Jim Crow laws, that some of the most abhorrent laws came about and remained with the excuse that these laws were for “our own protection.” We don’t want “protection” that threatens our farmers with legal action if they share a gallon of milk with us.
For a state that likes to call itself progressive, sanctioning farmers for providing food to their communities is roughly equivalent to criminalizing the operator of a food service facility for serving the wrong person at a lunch counter.
When we look back on history 30, 20 or even 10 years from now, how will Maryland be seen?
Let’s not allow Maryland law to be based on old science or the data from manipulated statistics to maintain unjust and unsound regulatory prohibitions against regular people doing what people have always done for all of human history…producing food and sharing it with their neighbors. Thank you.
Please keep up the calls and emails to the committee members and ask for a vote on HB3!
Wherever you are in your personal journey toward clean living and local food, thank you for joining me in mine. I look forward to sharing it with you.
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