Antibiotic resistance and factory farming Answered
Want to know where the latest MRSA strains are coming from?
Not the hospitals- it's factory farms. I know the basics of antibiotic use in factory farming, but seeing the statistics is still appalling. It makes me particularly happy to have scored 55lbs of venison from my uncle this weekend.
The bit on testing reminds me of the bit about Mad Cow- US farmers who want to test 100% of their livestock aren't allowed to basically because 1) it would make the untested animals look bad, and 2) they might find something. One BSE-infected cow (or at least proof of such) could shut down US beef exports entirely. Anyway, back to MRSA:
The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that at least 70 percent of the antibiotics used in America are fed to animals living on factory farms.Raising vast numbers of pigs or chickens or cattle in close and filthy confinement simply would not be possible without the routine feeding of antibiotics to keep the animals from dying of infectious diseases. That the antibiotics speed up the animals' growth also commends their use to industrial agriculture, but the crucial fact is that without these pharmaceuticals, meat production practiced on the scale and with the intensity we practice it could not be sustained for months, let alone decades.
Public-health experts have been warning us for years that this situation is a public-health disaster waiting to happen. Sooner or later, the profligate use of these antibiotics -- in many cases the very same ones we depend on when we're sick -- would lead to the evolution of bacteria that could shake them off like a spring shower. It appears that "sooner or later" may be now. Recent studies in Europe and Canada found that confinement pig operations have become reservoirs of MRSA. A European study found that 60 percent of pig farms that routinely used antibiotics had MRSA-positive pigs (compared with 5 percent of farms that did not feed pigs antibiotics). This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study showing that a strain of "ÃÂÃÂMRSA from an animal reservoir has recently entered the human population and is now responsible for [more than] 20 percent of all MRSA in the Netherlands." Is this strictly a European problem? Evidently not. According to a study in Veterinary Microbiology, MRSA was found on 45 percent of the 20 pig farms sampled in Ontario, and in 20 percent of the pig farmers. (People can harbor the bacteria without being infected by it.) Thanks to Nafta, pigs move freely between Canada and the United States. So MRSA may be present on American pig farms; we just haven't looked yet.
I love Michael Pollan's work.
If you haven't read The Omnivore's Dilemma you should. Many of his books started as pieces for the NYTimes magazine: here's a list of books and articles, with links. He's much more of a storyteller than a straight-up reporter, and despite the often dire subject matter his stories are simply fun to read. He's also a journalism prof at UCBerkeley right around the corner from Instructables.