The recent announcement of agricultural trade sanctions by the United States against the European Community (Part I, Dec. 28) is bad for U.S. consumers and bad for international relations.
European consumer groups have persuaded their representatives to outlaw beef contaminated with hormones. Most U.S.-produced beef and poultry is raised using hormones and antibiotics. Instead of retaliating against the European Community for protecting the health of its citizens, we should be educating our own citizens about what goes into the meat they eat, and encouraging our own farmers to produce meat without hormones and antibiotics.
The Europeans have created a huge market for hormone-free beef. Our farmers are just as capable as European farmers of producing such beef; doing so would make it easier for health-conscious Americans to find clean meat in our own stores.
The Administration claims that this European ban on hormone-contaminated beef has nothing to do with health, but is merely a means for protecting their "inefficient" small farmers. What does the Administration think is "efficient"? We have seen our own small farmers put out of business by huge agribusiness enterprises. The "efficiency" of these enterprises results from exploiting the stored fertility of the land with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and from a subsidy system that helps big agribusiness more than it does the small family farmer.
But the rapacious practices of chemical, highly mechanized farming are not sustainable. In 1985 it took nearly three times as much oil to produce a ton of grain as in 1950. In 1982 American farmers lost 6 tons of topsoil for every ton of grain produced. There are many sustainable agriculture practices, now being used and researched by organic farmers that enrich the soil and require far less energy. Instead of exhorting European farmers to chemical-dependent "efficiency," we should be encouraging our own farmers to convert to sustainable agriculture.
As consumers we can act over the heads of our backward government. We urge everyone who buys food to demand hormone- and antibiotic-free meat, and organic fruits and vegetables. Better yet, join or organize a food cooperative and gain some control over the quality of the food you and your family eat.
and JOHANNA MOORE