By Elisabeth Rosenthal
Published: Thursday, April 3, 2008
STRYSZOW, Poland — Depending on your point of view, Szczepan Master is either an incorrigible Luddite or a visionary. A small farmer, proud of his pure, high-quality products, he works his land the way Polish farmers have for centuries.
He keeps his livestock in a straw-floored "barn" that is part of his house, entered through a kitchen door. He slaughters his own pigs. His wife milks cows by hand. He rejects genetically modified seeds. Instead of spraying his crops, he turns his fields in winter, preferring a workhorse to a tractor, to let the frost kill off pests residing there.
While traditional farms like his could be dismissed as a nostalgic throwback, they are also increasingly seen as the future - if only they can survive.
Master's way of farming - his way of life - has been badly threatened in the two years since Poland joined the European Union, a victim of sanitary laws and mandates to encourage efficiency and competition that favor mechanized commercial farms, farmers here say.
In the US, the "sanitary laws" come in the form of S 510, and like in Poland, it is based on transparent absurdity, is a threat to the existence of farmers safely providing local food people desire, and is being driven by corporations intent on global control over food.