For decades, livestock producers have used low doses of antibiotics to expedite animal growth. The practice, dubbed sub-therapeutic antibiotic therapy (STAT), lowers feed costs while increasing meat production, and nearly 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are for this purpose. Because STAT can encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” it’s banned in many countries, but remains common in the U.S.-despite recent public pleas to stop it by two former FDA commissioners. Although STAT has been in use since the 1950s, how it works has long been a mystery. But evidence is mounting that it might be due to antibiotics killing microorganisms that populate animals’ guts. Read more

If you want to bury an unsavory news story, the afternoon before Christmas vacation is a good time to break it. The FDA chose December 21 to release its Environmental Assessment (EA) of the genetically modified “AquAdvantage“ salmon. This move quietly slid the fish closer to making history as the first GM animal approved for human consumption. The public was given 60 days to comment on a farmed salmon that American fish farmers wouldn’t be allowed to raise, but American consumers would nonetheless be allowed to eat.

If the announcement’s timing suggests FDA wants the application to flow smoothly, also consider that it has been 17 years since AquaBounty first applied for permission to sell its recombinant Atlantic salmon in the U.S. The company has paid a heavy price for trying to be first. Read more

Somalia is a tough place to build a community garden. Between drought, warlords, a near-absence of infrastructure and a prevailing mood of powerlessness, it takes commitment, and ideally some help. Sid Ali Mohammed, 65and Mohamed Abdukadir “Mudane” Hassan, 26, have both. They’ve managed to build 15 community and family gardens in Somalia as part of Slow Food’s A Thousand Gardens in Africa project. But it hasn’t been easy. Read more