IS THERE AN ID CHIP IN YOUR
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.
Greg Niewendorp raises cattle
in northern Michigan. Time in the saddle is one of the best parts of the day for this fifth generation
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 and
the state chipped his entire herd.
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,"
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 1.5 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:? The USDA has approved implantable RFID 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.
Haywood fears the government and pet companies will use the information to enforce policies
and sell products.
Right now, pet chipping is the law in places like unincorporated Los Angeles
country, Stockton, California and El Paso, Texas. Pet chip companies emphasize the joy of
chips helping to reunite lost pets with their families.
But privacy expert Katherine
Albrecht wonders how many pet owners know about the cancer studies she recently uncovered. The studies show chip implants
that caused malignant tumors in lab rats and mice.
"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,"
What about the 'Human'
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,"
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
What makes sense to both sides
is safety. It seems, though, that no one can agree. But at what price?