March 29, 2013

CLF Week in Links: Rivers, Slow Food, ADUFA, and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Can U.S. rivers support life?

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A small study by researchers in the UK and Denmark shows that a strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been transmitted from farm animals to people. In a letter to Commissioner Hamburg of the FDA, regarding the study, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D–NY) said, “This study ends any debate. The extreme overuse of antibiotics in livestock is endangering human health. … Starting today, the FDA must take strong federal action to reduce antibiotic use in livestock and protect human health.”

Support for ADUFA. In another New York Times article, David Kessler, who was commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 1990 to 1997, argues that we need tougher legislation on reporting the use of antibiotics in food animal production. “We have more than enough scientific evidence to justify curbing the rampant use of antibiotics for livestock, yet the food and drug industries … oppose collecting the data. Unfortunately, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions [HELP], as well as the F.D.A., is aiding and abetting them.” The CLF agrees with Kessler’s position and has been advocating diligently to have more detailed data reported by the FDA from ADUFA. To say we are disappointed by the failure of HELP to support a strong pro-public health implementation of ADUFA is a huge understatement.

Pork industry on the hot seat. On the topic of gestation crates for pigs, there’s been a heated exchange between a high-profile leader of the food industry—Fedele Bauccio—and a trade publication. We at the Center had the good fortune to work with Fedele on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, and we appreciate his strong words in support of creating higher (and more expensive) standards for the pork industry. As the CEO and founder of Bon Appétit Management Company, Fedele asserts that the public cares about getting rid of gestation crates.

More pork. Meanwhile, pork producers in China are ramping up their operations, increasing their production by 50 percent. Apparently, the consumer demand for pork has outweighed recent concerns about food safety, such as the more than 9,000 dead pigs found in the Huangpu River last week.

Pesticide reporting in Maryland. It doesn’t look good for the Maryland bill that would require growers to record their use of insecticides and herbicides and submit it to the state. This is the fourth time the bill has failed in the House. Without more detailed information about what pesticides are contaminating the Chesapeake watershed, scientists are severely handicapped in studying the ecologic damage caused by these chemicals.

Cry us a river. On Tuesday, the EPA announced that more than half of U.S. rivers are in poor condition and unsuitable for aquatic life. What’s making the rivers unsuitable is, largely, runoff contaminated by fertilizers used in agriculture, including animal waste from CAFOs sprayed from open cesspits in the hog industry, or spread as dried feces from the poultry, dairy, and beef industries.

Slow Food. Mark Bittman was written a lovely profile of Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement. Slow Food is, in Bittman’s words, “a growing movement of people who believe that we can reduce both hunger and obesity while improving the quality of food, the life of farmers, the impact of agriculture on the environment and health.” He also addresses rumors of Petrini becoming Italy’s minister of agriculture. It seems Italy will have no such luck.

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