Jack Jones (who asked that his real name not be used) takes care of a small organic pear orchard for a farmer south of the San Francisco Bay Area. This spring, as the trees have begun to blossom, he’s been spraying them with a small amount of the antibiotic tetracycline to prevent a disease called fire blight.
Last year, when the perfect storm of warm, wet air first brought the bacteria to the farm, he tried removing infected branches and getting rid of cover crops, which were providing nitrogen that fed the disease. But to no avail—the disease had established itself in the trunks.
“It just devastated the orchard. We lost 80 percent of our trees in one season,” he recalls. Read more
In the livestock industry, heroes don’t always get their due. Perhaps that’s because the story of our modern animal agriculture system is so often so bleak—for farmers, animals, our health and the health of our environment.
In the U.S. pork sector, two-thirds of hog production comes from producers working under contract with mega-processors like Smithfield and Cargill. Processing is increasingly automated and farmers feel the pressures of high volume, low cost meat production. In confined animal feeding operations or “CAFOs”, pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in superbug-breeding warehouses, crowded with pens and gestation crates as far as the eye can see. Hogs are raised for maximum weight gain and routinely given antibiotics to speed up growth and prevent the very kinds of diseases that spread when so many animals live in such close, unsanitary and stressful quarters. Read more
Yesterday, Rep. Louise Slaughter, Congress’s lone microbiologist and a long-time leader on the issue of antibiotic resistance, reintroduced an updated version of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, or PAMTA as it is better known. Read more
The development of antibiotics in the mid-20th Century revolutionized public and personal health. Ironically, the early success of antibiotics also fostered a culture, that persists to this day, in which the efficacy of the drugs are taken for granted and the need for new research and development is grossly undervalued. After years of misuse these medical miracles are now failing, at an alarming rate, and the supply of new options is paltry at best. Now public health and some of the crown jewels of modern medicine – such as transplant surgery and chemotherapy — rest precariously on a small handful of increasingly ineffective drugs. Read more
Is our national habit of eating dead animals dragging us closer and closer to a flu pandemic that could kill tens of millions of Americans? Dr. Michael Greger believes so.
He’s the author of the new book, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, and he recently came on our show, The Big Picture, to ring the alarm bell.
“Up to sixty million Americans get the flu every year,” he said before asking, “What if it turned deadly?”
The question wasn’t exactly rhetorical. Read more
As Americans ring in the new year, many of us will resolve to get healthy. Meat and poultry producers can help — by making a resolution to put their farm animals on an antibiotics diet.
Antibiotics are lifesaving medicines. But overusing them can have unintended consequences. That’s what we’re seeing on industrial farms where these drugs are being used on a massive scale in a way that threatens the public’s health. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics are sold each year for use in food animal production, most often to make the animals grow faster and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. By comparison, drug makers sold about 7 million pounds of these products last year to treat sick people. Read more
As concerns grow about antibiotic-resistant pathogens in our food, environment, and hospitals, the Agricultural Research Service is trying to figure out the best alternatives for food animal producers, who have long relied on these miracle drugs for combating diseases and boosting feed efficiency.
Though antibiotic resistance is a known consequence of antibiotic use in both humans and animals, agricultural use has come under greater scrutiny in recent years as more consumers take an interest in how their food is produced. According to the most recent estimates, around 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States each year are used in food animal production. Read more
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking its biggest step yet to rein in the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that help food animals grow bigger, faster. The agency said Wednesday it is asking veterinary drug makers to voluntarily phase out medically important drugs from being available over the counter in the hope that the shift will help combat growing antimicrobial resistance.
Under FDA’s proposal, these antimicrobials will still be allowed in animal agriculture but, if veterinary drug companies agree to change the labels, farmers will be allowed to use the drugs only to prevent, control, or treat diseases and under the supervision of a veterinarian and not for promoting growth or improving feed efficiency.
The agency said it was taking the voluntary action to “preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans.” Read more
How many times have you checked a food package to see where it was produced, wondering about all the energy it took to get from the farm to your fork? Once an issue that few people pondered, the “eat local” movement has inspired conscientious consumers all over the country to contemplate how we can each do better by the planet at meal-time. The issue’s gone so mainstream that even TIME magazine published a cover story a few years ago entitled, “Forget Organic—Eat Local.”
Well, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, we would be wiser to reconsider the amount of meat products on our grocery list rather than merely looking for how many miles our food may have traveled.
How much more concerned should we be? A lot. Read more