CBNNews.com There’s a growing movement to forcibly tag or chip your animals with radio frequency identification devices. Many privacy advocates believe this could lead to a scarier level: implanting you and me. Now, there is an effort to stem the tide.Introducing NAIS
Greg Niewendorp raises cattle in northern Michigan. Time in the saddle is one of the best parts of the day for this fifth generation farmer.
But these days, he’s spending lots of time holed up in his home office. Why? Niewendorp and other small farmers are fighting the government’s plans to identify and track every single farm animal in the country.
It’s called NAIS or National Animal Identification System.
“Our primary interest is protecting the food supply by having a rapid system that can reach out and address the needs for the primary food animals,” said USDA Undersecretary Bruce Knight.
On October 8, Michigan AG officials arrived on Niewendorp’s farm with a search warrant. But Niewendorp refused to allow them to put RFID tags on his cattle.
Pressure forced Niewendorp to give in that day, but his story spread rapidly in farming circles -making him “the face” of a grass-roots opposition movement.
“The tag goes in the ear. They give me a premises I.D. number. Now they’ve got a national number on my cattle, a national number on my land. I might still technically own the animal but they’re controlling what I can and can’t do with it,” he said.
While this may be the law in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana, the USDA insists the federal identification program is not mandatory.
Knight said, “It can, it should and it will work on a voluntary basis.”
Still, privacy experts say many USDA programs already require an NAIS number. And small farmers like Virginian Scott Wilson worry about the cost of buying tags and tracking animals.
“To be effective they’re going to need 100 percent participation in this program and that is really going to put an undue burden on us as small farmers,” Wilson said.
The USDA wants to be able to track animals quickly in the event of a disease outbreak. It believes NAIS will do that and help encourage confidence in the safety of our food supply – in the eyes of both consumers and global markets.
Like It or Not, NAIS is Fast Becoming Reality
More than one and a half million RFID tags are spread across some 400,000 farms today.
The USDA is now accepting bids for an additional million and a half tags. The latest development is implantable devices for livestock.
Pets aren’t supposed to be part of this program, but activist Barb Haywood is not so sure.
She and others in the dog world say mandatory pet chipping is already happening in many communities.
“A microchip is not a benign device. A microchip is a data collection device – a data collection device that’s designed not just to collect data on your dog – but you,” Haywood said.
It’s the law in places like Stockton, California and El Paso, Texas. Pet chip companies publicize heart-warming stories about lost animals being re-united with their families.
But what about health concerns? Privacy expert Katherine Albrecht wonders how many pet owners know about the cancer studies she recently uncovered.
“It may not be such a good idea to force people to chip their family companions when there may be even a slight chance that there’s a cancer link there,” said Albrecht.
What about the ‘Human’ Implant Market?
Another concern is that animal implants may speed up the growth of the human implant market.
That’s because Digital Angel, a major manufacturer of animal chips, is owned by the same company that makes the human implant, Verichip.
Since the FDA approved Verichip in 2004, it has set up shop in more than 900 hospitals. Verichip assures patients that in a medical emergency, a simple wave of a scanner could correctly identify them and their medical information.
But Verichip is working through health concerns of its own.
Susan Byrne received her chip in July, and says her arm still hurts.
“The next day, that’s when I really felt discomfort. I felt like I was having an injection 24/7 – like the needle was still in my arm,” Byme said.
She says Verichip told her she was the first patient to ask that her chip be removed. But Byme is skeptical, and Verichip did not respond to CBN News’ calls on the subject.
Opponents of the Verichip also worry that human implants will one day be mandatory.
“There is actually a growing concern that an HMO or an employer could actually require a person to be micro-chipped to get insurance or to keep a job,” Albrecht said.
So far, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and California have all passed laws forbidding the mandatory chipping of people.
But for many animals, it may be too late.
“We’re a very small voice right now going against the tide saying, ‘Hey, this doesn’t make sense,’ Wilson said.
What makes sense to both sides is safety. It seems, though, that no one can agree. But at what price?