FDA Places Restriction on Use of Antibiotics on Livestock

People go vegetarian for all sorts of reasons. Health concerns are often cited as the primary reason for the transition in diet. Just to be clear, meat in itself is actually very healthy. The main problem stems from the fact that most meat these days goes through a cycle where it is exposed to all sorts of nasty chemicals that are not meant to go into people’s mouths.

Another problem is that farmers tend to inject their livestock with growth hormones and antibiotics. Thousands of human deaths that occur every year can be attributed to bacteria that can be found in the meat. Farmers are known to inject their cattle, pigs and chickens with antibiotics, which can help them grow more quickly. The problem with this practice, however, is that constant injections can make the bacteria inside the animals more resistant to the antibiotics over time. When people ingest the meat, they become ill and cannot be treated with normal antibiotics because of the bacteria’s resistance.

The Food and Drug Administration are now stepping in to put a stop to this practice. They have implemented a new policy that would require farmers to acquire consent from a veterinarian to obtain the antibiotics.

Michael Taylor, the deputy commissioner of food for the FDA, believes that this new policy can save lives and prevent scores of people from falling ill each year. It is estimated that around two million people are admitted to the hospital annually for bacteria related illnesses, though it is unclear how many of these cases are related to the consumption of infected meat.

While this policy is definitely well intended, it may hurt small farming businesses. There are less than 10,000 veterinarians that specialize in the treatment of large animals in the U.S. This will make it extremely difficult for some farmers to receive the necessary antibiotics for their livestock that are legitimately sick.

While this policy may have negative implications for farmers, it places the safety and interest of the public first. In a society where just about every type of food is modified to some extent, this policy will keep some of those modifications out of the meat that people consume.

Durban Climate Conference

Later on in 2011, international climate change negotiators will meet in Africa to look back on the famine which is now sweeping the eastern parts of that continent, and make predictions that climate change will be largely injurious to Africa’s future food production.

The World Bank’s special envoy on climate change, Andrew Steer, told The Associated Press:

“The challenges are overwhelming… Africa needs to triple food production by 2050…At the same time, you’ve got climate change lowering average yields …. So, of course, we need something different.”

He hopes for a refocused look at agriculture to take place at the talks that are to be held in South Africa’s eastern city of Durban, the first talks in Africa since Nairobi hosted a round in 2006. South Africa says that as chair of the Durban conference, it will alert the industrializing nations to deliver money and technology to help developing countries in Africa to create clean industries and cope with the droughts and floods.

Africa is hard hit by the effects of climate change and needs more money for managing water and creating seeds for food crops which can withstand droughts and floods.

Researchers with the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that global agriculture accounts for 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than transportation’s 13 percent and almost at the industry’s 19 percent. Farming’s contribution to global warming possibly might offset techniques to store and sequester more and more carbon in soil and trees.

Sequestering carbon is good for the environment and has even yielded increases.

“You invest in things that are good for yields, good for resilience and also sequester more carbon…You can have it both ways if you get carbon back in soils.”

Steer says it is hard to determine exactly how much money is needed, and cautioned that while agreements on helping poor countries and a focus on agriculture could emerge at Durban.

Durban isn’t “a pledging session”, mind you, said Mr. Steer on the sidelines of a climate change conference on farming which attracted agriculture ministers from across Africa to Johannesburg.

In a speech which opened the Johannesburg conference, South African agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said that “Food security, poverty and climate are closely linked and should not be considered separately.”

What Erik Andrus is Doing to Protect Vermont Food Production

How hip are farmers? Ones that think outside the box? Support their community, environment, economy and provide creative angles of community engagement and education? One New England green thumb has put the cool alarm on the world of the farm.

Eric Andrus - Rice in VermontThis is the story of one Erik Andrus, a farmer from Vermont. An old-fashioned beer and bread New Englander, he has not seen much success lately in the quality of grains he grows on the grass of his farm. Alas, the grass gets splashed by the springtime mizzle.

So…he began last spring to experiment with rice.
On a damp acre on the land he used an excavator to make room for two rice paddies, a reservoir and canals; as foreseen, spring rains filled the paddies. A drain on one side allows him to regulate the aqua level on the paddies, while a pump pulls more water when needed from the reservoir.

He says he wants to harvest 4,000 pounds of rice this year, and if all goes well, he will expand. Setting a model for Vermont’s dairy country to boost food production and make the region increasingly self-sufficient is vital to protect the industry from the likes of blizzards and terror attacks, according to Lisa Rathke of Associated Pross.

Erik bought Boundbrook Farm beck in 2005 and two years later added a bakery. He is one of the few farmers in the region to actually attempt rice production.

Writes Rathke:

“Most rice produced in the U.S. is grown in semi-tropical conditions in the South. Arkansas produces half the country’s rice in an area where typical temperatures range from the 70s to 90s, and it’s also grown in California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. But rice is a versatile crop, thought to have originated near the Himalayas and grown in cold areas of Japan and China as well as the tropics.”

She continues:

“Most of the cold-hardy varieties that can withstand lows in the 40s are short-grain, Japanese-style rice. Whole Systems Design LLC in Warren has been growing short-grain brown rice in paddies carved out of a hillside for three years. Its website describes the rice as an exciting, climate-change adaptable staple crop.”

In Vermont in the spring, the ground is too cold to put rice right in the ground like they do down South say, so Andrus started 50,000 rice plants in a hoop house, that is a greenhouse with plastic sides – transplanting the seedlings into his paddies after they grow a little. A local high school assisted in moving the seedlings. Andrus said transplanting rice is a community building activity in Japan, and this inspired him to invite the local high school freshman class to help.

In addition to these benefits, the paddies make a habitat for amphibians and birds, the rice acting as living filter, removing nitrogen and phosphorus from the water supply.

The Good Companion Bakery is the name of the bakery owned by Erik and Erica Andrus. It opened on April 22nd.