It's a tradition of mine to write a note of sincere gratitude to Big Ag for the many "gifts" they've bestowed upon us all over the past 12 months relating to food animal production. Gifts that we didn't really want, need, or—in some cases—didn't even know about. Here's my top 10 for 2014.
While the GRSB states that it has deliberately avoided outlining indicators, metrics or practices on the basis they are “only applicable in a narrow range of environments and systems and therefore need to be developed at the local level,” we believe that in order to be credible, any further local and international work in this area must properly tackle the following fundamental limitations of the GRSB’s Principles and Criteria report—and the industrial beef production model itself.
A damning new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reveals that our Government has been ignoring the very real risks to public health from routine antibiotic abuse in intensive livestock farming. According to the NRDC’s new report, Playing Chicken With Antibiotics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—whose key remit it to protect public health—permitted the nontherapeutic use of 30 medicinally important antibiotics, including 18 rated as “high risk” to human health, on industrial farming operations despite knowing this could pose a direct threat to human health through the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. It makes truly somber reading for anyone concerned about future public health—and the independence of our Government agencies from vested corporate interests.
Forgive me if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent announcement to control antibiotic use in food animals didn’t have me reaching for the Champagne.
Yet another industry assurance about the safety of the controversial practices used in intensive livestock production has been exposed as a falsehood. Hot on the heels of recent public health and environmental scares associated with industrial livestock farming—including the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, ractopamine residues in pork, and arsenic residues in poultry meat—new scientific research on an anabolic steroid which is routinely used in industrial beef production in the U.S. is causing alarm.
In this era of uninformed, “silver bullet” solutions to the plague that is industrial farming, it’s great to see that Dan Imhoff—the author of the seminal book CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories—is making a stand against the reckless abuse of antibiotics in industrial livestock production. And he’s making real sense, too. In a bold move, Imhoff has launched a new public petition which targets the largest—and yet possibly the most responsive—player when it comes to U.S. meat production and consumption: Walmart, our nation’s largest retailer.
Unapproved, unwanted, and now out of control: the news that an unlicensed genetically modified (GM) wheat has been found growing on a field in Oregon – almost 10 years after it was supposed to have completely destroyed – sent shivers down my spine. I've been blogging about the known and unknown risks of GM crops for a while. But we are now witnessing a real ‘escape-from-the-laboratory’ nightmare and, in a worst-case scenario, the impacts on U.S. agriculture could be truly devastating.
It’s the kind of farfetched plot you’d expect to see in a James Bond or Jason Bourne movie. You know, where the bad guys are found to be secretly coercing governments – and even entire countries – to aid corporate global domination, and where good old Felix from the CIA saves the day and helps Mr. Bond defeat the evildoers. But in a bizarre twist to the plot, it now looks like the real-life U.S. Government officials have actually been working for the likes of Monsanto and the Big Ag lobby all along. A devastating new report by Food & Water Watch – entitled Biotech Ambassadors: How the US State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda – reveals that the U.S. State Department has been aggressively pursuing foreign food and agricultural policies that seek to benefit the vested interests of the largest biotech seed corporations – often collaborating directly with representatives from Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and Dow Agrochemical.
Maybe it’s time we demanded a health warning on intensively produced meat products. Because when it comes to the link between modern so-called science-based industrial livestock farming and the rise of life-threatening antibiotic resistant bacteria, the evidence just keeps on coming. Hot on the heels of a damning report by the Environmental Working Group, which revealed high levels of potentially life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria on raw supermarket meat, the respected Consumer Reports has found potential disease-causing organisms in 90 percent of ground turkey samples purchased from stores nationwide. What’s more, many of the bacteria they identified were resistant to more than three antibiotic drug classes.
We can be pretty certain that in the coming days we will hear this message over and over again "So what if most of the meat on our supermarket shelves is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria? If you handle and cook your meat properly then a few bacteria shouldn’t be a problem; and if you get sick with an untreatable disease then it’s your own fault.' This is the kind of contemptible retort we can expect from the intensive meat industry lobby and its many trolls in response to new research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which reveals high levels of life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria on raw supermarket meat. Yet the “cook it properly and everything will be OK” spin is just Big Ag’s latest attempt to absolve itself of any responsibility for squandering one of the most important medical innovations of our time– and putting American lives at risk.
The use and misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is a hot topic. Only earlier this month, the UK Government’s Chief Medical Officer weighed into the debate and said that the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria risks a global health catastrophe that ranks alongside the threat of climate change or terrorism. It’s serious stuff.
It’s a well-known PR tactic to release bad or potentially unpopular news during the Holiday Season. So I always keep my eyes peeled to catch any news releases that might otherwise slip the net. I didn’t have to wait long. On December 21, when most people were focusing on their upcoming festivities, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quietly released its draft environmental assessment on the highly controversial genetically engineered (GE) salmon, created by AquaBounty Technologies Inc.