Essay on Food Disparagement Laws

Essay on Food Disparagement Laws

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Food Disparagement Laws

Food Disparagement Law or "Veggie Libel Law" describes the new libel laws that impose penalties on anyone who comments about perishable food products in a manner deemed inconsistent with "reasonable or reliable scientific inquiry." 
Food disparagement laws began cropping up in the early 1990's, after a consumer scare over the pesticide Alar, a chemical used to lengthen the time that apples ripen on trees. In 1989, the CBD news program "60 Minutes" broadcast a report that said Alar could cause cancer. Washington State apple growers filed a defamation lawsuit, contending they lost $100 million in a consumer panic after the story aired. The suit, however, was dismissed on grounds that the alleged defamation was directed at a product, and that food could not be defamed. The controversy over Alar so unnerved farmers and other food producers that it prompted them to seek special protection for perishable foods.
Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas have adopted the so-called "veggie libel." These laws put agriculture products on equal footing with other commodities, protecting them from false, negative claims. Name brand products are protected by libel trademark laws. Even individuals can protect themselves under libel and slander laws. But generic products, like fruits, vegetables, and meat don't have that same protection under the law. The problem is made even more pronounced when those products are perishable. Producers can't store their products in a warehouse while they try and prove that negative claims are untrue. American Farm Bureau governmental relations specialist John Keeling has lik...


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... In fact, they would like to see more reporting of these issues. They only ask that it be balanced and fair. Their concern is that individuals promoting some philosophy or private agenda will dupe the news media and entertainment figures into spreading lies about food product and farm prices.
Oprah Winfrey vs. Texas Cattlemen was especially interesting to me for three reasons. First of all, I grew up in Amarillo, Texas. Most of the people I grew up with had some connection to the beef industry. Secondly, my father is the president of a cattle company and is very involved in the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, and the National Cattlemen's Association. I also have met Paul Engler, the man who pressed charges against Oprah. Finally, I'm a big fan of Oprah. I think she has a very positive effect of television with the exception of the April 16th 1996 show.

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