If you get rich suing people, your days going after Big Tobacco are basically over. The tobacco companies have been sued for everything by now and the people who still smoke know what they are doing, and the risks, and they are willing to pay an ever-increasing amount of taxes to fund government employee unions. We can't really blame corporations for that any more.
Luckily, the food industry could soon take its place. Not because they have done anything wrong, but rather because we live in a culture where a dizzying cross-section of people assume anyone working for a corporation must be unethical. And creating nuisance laws that make it possible to sue over labels without actually having any evidence of harm are a dream for litigation attorneys.
Attorney Don Barrett, who forced a settlement that cost tobacco companies more than $200 billion, and made himself Senator-and-former Vice-Presidential-candidate-John-Edwards levels of rich doing so, says it is not money that makes him want to go after Big Food.
Of course not, why would lawyers who make money suing companies care about money? They are not unethical the way all corporations apparently are. Right?
In reality, we all know why a lawyer would be happy about recent efforts against food companies, especially California's Proposition 37, and it isn't because they want to help society. In the case of Prop 37, it was written by a lawyer for lawyers and funded by organic and alternative medicine groups outside California to bypass the legislature and create a law even the somewhat kooky California legislature would not pass; because laws that create money damages should prove harm. Instead, this law monitors labels and allows for damages based on a label, not any evidence of harm, much less proof. We have lots of nuisance lawsuits in California, like lawyers who go around measuring ramps for people in wheelchairs so they can shake down a business for a few thousand dollars if the ramp is off by a quarter inch, and this law is designed to do much the same, create petty lawsuits that can be settled quickly.
“I’m 68 years old, frankly I don’t need the cash, the law’s been good to me,” Barrett told BBC Newsnight. “This is my job, but here we have an opportunity to really help people."
So he is going to make food more expensive for the poorest. That is help they don't need. At 68 he can be honest enough to state something funny like 'suing is my job but this time I can really help people' - which shows that ordinarily even he does not think he has any value to society. But organic food buyers are shocked that lawyers are more excited than the public about a wave of lawsuits. It's simply too much, even for California of 2012. California used to be a sort of 'anything goes' culture of freedom and tolerance and diversity. Now it exists to be the exact kind of social authoritarian ban-happy wonderland than the hippies protested against. And leading the charge into more government are those same people from the 1960s. But there are limits - even making sure to exempt restaurants and alcohol (along with organic food, of course) was not enough to allow this to slip under the critical thinking radar by claiming it is about 'food transparency'.
Barrett is going after food companies regardless of what happens with Prop. 37 and his tactics will be the same the lawyers like him have always used - if you can't prove your food is 'healthy', you will have to cut him a check.
Meanwhile, what about other ridiculous food causes that got media attention? Not the 'pink slime' libel one that ABC News is now claiming should be protected as free speech, the one befor even that - the war on Trans Fats, which were supposedly killing us before Big Gulps were. JM Smucker has been sued numerous times - also in California courts, of course - because someone in their marketing department wrote that their "Uncrustables" sandwiches are 'wholesome' when they contain *gasp* trans-fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil - just like organic food can claim to be 'wholesome' even if it has synthetic materials and uses synthetic pesticides.
How are those lawsuits protecting the public in any way? Smucker argues they are in compliance with labeling laws - and they are - but they still have to spend money on lawsuits or, you guessed it, settle out of court for a token payment and a ton of lawyer fees.
Lawyers are not excited about more laws because they care about you. Nor are organic companies endorsing legislation that puts labels on other products and exempts their own because they care about you. They all care about profit, no differently than any corporation.
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