Giant agribusinesses produce most of the food sold in our grocery stores. Agriculture’s industrialization has contributed to our alarming resistance to antibiotics. It is common practice for these mega-concerns to add hormones and/or antibiotics to dairy cows, beef cattle, sheep, and pigs. They inject hormones into these animals for faster weight gain. The faster weight gain reduces the waiting time for the animals’ slaughter, speeding the meat to your dinner table. Dairy cows are injected with hormones to increase milk production. This increase in milk production requires frequent milking, which in turn leads to udder infections that require antibiotics. That milk you are giving to your kids not only has calcium but residuals of hormones and antibiotics.
If a farm animal in agrifarming sneezes, antibiotics are immediately administered to all the animals because of the dense, packed living quarters. Diseases spread rapidly in such squalid conditions causing an alarming overuse of antibiotics, even in healthy animals just “to make sure.” The Union of Concerned Scientists reports the “excessive use of antibiotics by meat producers, 8 times more than in human medicine, contributes to alarming increases in antibiotic resistance.” Your doctor is cautious about prescribing an antibiotic for an illness because of increasing resistance but not the guys in agriculture’s industrialization. Residual hormones and antibiotics are serious concerns impacting the safety of our food and our health.
Switching to fish and seafood does not offer protection. The same industrialization in livestock is now occurring in aquaculture. Our polluted waterways and oceans have substantially reduced wild fish and seafood. “Fish farming,” or aquaculture, has increased significantly, resulting in the same health problems as intensive farming of livestock by cramming thousands of fish into confined areas. Disease, once again, spreads rapidly. The problem is handled in the same irresponsible way as livestock: antibiotics.
We must return to sustainable farming. There is a ray of hope. Small scale farmers are forming networks and co-ops to sell healthy crops, livestock and milk. Support local efforts. Senators Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Olympia Snow of Maine are pushing for a federal ban on antibiotics in feed. Write or email your support.
Ask your congress representative to support the bill before Congress “The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.”
It’s our world, our food, our health. Make a difference.
By Sandy Powers