Every year in the United States, 325,000 people are hospitalized because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s right: food kills one person every two hours.
Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer. Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system...is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and state agency partners finds that pesticide drift from conventional, chemical-intensive farming has poisoned thousands of farmworkers and rural residents in recent years. According to the authors, agricultural workers and residents in agricultural regions were found to have the highest rate of pesticide poisoning from drift exposure, and soil fumigations were a major hazard causing large drift incidents. The study, “Acute Pesticide Illnesses Associated with Off-Target Pesticide Drift from Agricultural Applications — 11 States, 1998–2006,” was published June 6, 2011 in the online edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives
Pesticide News Roundup: The jig may be up for Monsanto & the U.S Dept of Agriculture found 34 unapproved pesticides on the herb cilantro. In Fresno, CA, farm workers and residents protest the use of methyl iodide. And, Finally, a recent CDC study found that pesticide drift from conventional farming has poisoned farm workers and rural residents.
Genetically engineered salmon has consumers and environmentalists running the other way. So why is the FDA considering approving it?
Industry regulators have known for years that Roundup, the world's best-selling herbicide produced by U.S. company Monsanto, causes birth defects, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The report, "Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?" found regulators knew as long ago as 1980 that glyphosate, the chemical on which Roundup is based, can cause birth defects in laboratory animals.
But despite such warnings, and although the European Commission has known that glyphosate causes malformations since at least 2002, the information was not made public.
Three days a week, a funky bus transformed into a kitchen-on-wheels parks in a Minneapolis or St. Paul neighborhood. Inside cooks whip up such entrees as stuffed green peppers or zucchini with brie cheese, while others drag out a sign saying, "Free Meal Here Tonight."
By 5 p.m., neighbors start mingling outside one of the most unconventional free-meal services in Minnesota. It's run by Sisters' Camelot, an equally offbeat nonprofit that has given away organic produce to low-income neighborhoods for years -- out of a different bus -- before launching mobile organic meals last month.
Organics isn't the only thing that sets it apart. There's no set schedule for where the bus goes. Staff decide day-to-day. Anyone, poor or rich, is welcome to walk up to the bus window and grab a plate. Its goal isn't just to feed the hungry, but to "build community" in the parks and street corners where the bus is parked.
Every year, a hefty dairy cow tucked away in a snug barn produces more than 20,000 pounds of milk, along with an impressive amount of manure and an array of gases. New modeling work by an Agricultural Research Service team in University Park, Pennsylvania, suggests that a dairy cow living year-round in the great outdoors may leave a markedly smaller ecological hoofprint than her more sheltered sisters.
Agricultural engineer Al Rotz led a team of scientists at the ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit through a modeling study that evaluated how different management systems on a typical 250-acre Pennsylvania dairy farm would affect the environment. “If we try to reduce one environmental factor in this complex production system, we can end up increasing others,” Rotz says. “So there’s a real need to look at all the environmental aspects together.”
Several environmental and public health groups filed suit against the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday to try to force the government to stop farmers from routinely adding antibiotics to livestock feed to help animals grow faster.
The groups say widespread agricultural antibiotic use and the FDA’s allowance of the practice are compounding a public health crisis: the increasing prevalence of “superbugs” that infect people and do not respond to antibiotics.
Stuart Levy once kept a flock of chickens on a farm in the rolling countryside west of Boston. No ordinary farmer, Levy is a professor of molecular biology and microbiology and of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. This was decades ago, and his chickens were taking part in a never-before-conducted study. Half the birds received feed laced with a low dose of antibiotics, which U.S. farmers routinely administer to healthy livestock -- not to cure illness, but merely to increase the animals' rates of growth. The other half of Levy's flock received drug-free food.
Results started showing up almost instantly. Within two days, the treated animals began excreting feces containing E. coli bacteria that were resistant to tetracycline, the antibiotic in their feed. (E. Coli, most of which are harmless, normally live in the guts of chickens and other warm-blooded animals, including humans.) After three months, the chickens were also excreting bacteria resistant to such potent antibiotics as ampicillin, streptomycin, carbenacillin, and sulfonamides. Even though Levy had added only tetracycline to the feed, his chickens had somehow developed what scientists now call "multi-drug resistance" to a host of antibiotics that play important roles in treating infections in people. More frightening, although none of the members of the farm family tending the flock were taking antibiotics, they, too, soon began excreting drug-resistant strains of E. coli.
The simple fact is that factory farms produce over 100 times more waste than all American humans produce combined. In the past, a pastured cow might disperse waste over an acre or more; how can farmers responsibly deal with the waste of 1,000, 5,000, or even 10,000 or more animals when they are crammed in tightly together? And, unfortunately for the farmers, they are often working under contract for major meat or dairy conglomerates who own the animals and leave the farmer with a tiny profit margin (or none at all) -- plus all of the liability, dead animals and manure. Therefore, in addition to simply disposing of manure responsibly, they also need to dispose of it cheaply if they are to stay in business.