Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How Antibiotic Misuse on Factory Farms Can Make You Sick

September 26, 2012
3:10 PM

Anna Ghosh, 415-293-9905, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org

Superbugs on the
Factory Farm

New Report Offers Primer on the Dangers of Antibiotic Resistance and Its Origin in Our Food Supply

WASHINGTON - September 26 - There is more to our meat than meets the eye: overuse of antibiotics in factory farm animals is leading to the spread of antibiotic-resistant (AR) bacteria, a trend that deteriorates the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs needed to save human lives. A new report released by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, Antibiotic Resistance 101: How Antibiotic Misuse on Factory Farms Can Make You Sick, provides an overview of the growing threat to public health and examines the pervasiveness of AR bacteria in the U.S. meat supply.

“The evidence of the correlation between low-dose antibiotics used in healthy livestock and the rise in human bacterial infections that don’t respond to antibiotic treatments is clear and mounting,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “It is outrageous that the FDA and our members of Congress are failing to protect Americans from this looming public health crisis.”

The report defines the problem of antibiotic resistance and how industrial agriculture has accelerated it by routinely giving low doses of antibiotics to healthy animals over long periods of time to promote growth and prevent disease caused by the cramped, unsanitary conditions of factory farms. This practice, known as subtherapeutic use, creates AR bacteria that then enter the food supply.

The report explains how AR bacteria spread from livestock to consumers, farmers and the environment, as well as how the FDA currently regulates antibiotics. It concludes with recommendations for tackling antibiotic resistance.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that foodborne illnesses result in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. In August, six people died at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center in the Washington, D.C., area due to infections caused by AR bacteria.

“The FDA’s voluntary guidelines will do little to slow this frightening epidemic of death and disease,” said Hauter. “The problem is dire, and the agency’s failure to ban the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in livestock is irresponsible and reckless.”

Antibiotic Resistance 101: How Antibiotic Misuse on Factory Farms Can Make You Sick is available here:


Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.


Nestlé: Malevolent Corporation Capitalizes on Global Water Crisis

Published on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 by Council of Canadians
I have just returned from a week in Switzerland to promote the right to water and to challenge the giant Swiss bottled water giant Nestlé. My visit was arranged by Franklin Frederick, an activist and leader in the global fight against Nestlé Waters, who is originally from Brazil, but now lives and works in Switzerland. Franklin is an extraordinary man. He is fiercely committed to global water justice and has been a thorn in the side of the water privateers for years. I also reconnected with Rosmarie Bar, a former Green Member of the Swiss Parliament and former senior member of the Swiss development network, Alliance Sud. Rosmarie and I worked together to form an international group called Friends of the Right to Water and worked for many years to lay the groundwork for the recognition of this right at the UN. Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe. (Flickr/Nestle)
I spoke at the universities of Bern and Lucerne and in a beautiful 500 year-old church located in the heart of Bern. In the magnificent wood paneled Swiss Parliament, I also met with a delegation of MPs from every party who are committed to protecting public water and the human right to water. In all these venues, I met wonderful, committed people working for economic and social justice.
However, it is very clear that Nestlé is a powerful presence in Switzerland and its influence in the halls of power goes deep. Everyone I talked to said so in one way or another. Switzerland has no law limiting political donations from corporations, or requiring transparency in campaign financing. Given that the marketing department of Nestlé has a larger annual budget than the World Health Organization, it is widely understood that the company has great political influence.
Of special concern is the partnership that the Swiss Federal Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC - has entered into with the company. Nestlé is a charter member of the newly formed Swiss Water Partnership, along with civil society groups and aid agencies, that will advise the Swiss government on water policy in the Global South. The stated desire is to come to a set of “shared values” so that governments, NGOs and the private sector are promoting common policies and world views when giving aid money for water development, or what the SDC calls “speaking with one voice.” But what is this voice?
Nestlé was one of the first companies to commodify water. In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, seeing what it did to the groundwater supplies of the surrounding regions, the company bought up huge quantities of mineral water deposits in Switzerland. Nestlé is the biggest bottled water company in the world and is scouring countries all over the planet for new supplies of water.
Nestlé has consistently promoted public-private partnerships whereby private water companies run water services on a for profit basis. Company head Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, referred to often in the Swiss media as the “Water Man,” repeatedly promotes the full commodification of water (although after much criticism, now admits that the poor need some water too.) He has proposed setting aside 1.5 per cent of the planet’s water for human rights, the rest going into the market. Nestlé also promotes GMO crops, which are voracious users of pesticides.
So these policies are the ones that the company will promote to the Swiss government in its development work. It is a travesty that this is the water face to the world of Switzerland. The country has one of the finest public water systems anywhere. SDC defends this partnership and publicly states that a key goal is to promote the interests of Swiss water companies abroad.
But what does Nestlé know about delivering water and sanitation services? Nothing! It is involved with this partnership to gain credibility and to have the Swiss government open doors to new private water markets in the developing world. It is the same reason the company is deeply involved with the funding arm of the World Bank. In fact, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe chairs a new advisory board called the 2030 Water Resources Group that helps set policy models and priorities for water and sanitation programs around the world.
This is a disaster in a world where demand for water is outstripping supply at an accelerating rate. As Wenonah Hauter from Food and Water Watch says, Nestlé’s goal is to shift government policy away from providing public municipal water supplies to people, and toward a dependency on bottled water to provide basic drinking water. And of course, it is about capitalizing on the global water crisis.
It is time to call out Nestlé and the governments that partner with them. I will return to Nestlé’s home base again soon where we will shout out against this malevolent water hunter.
© 2012 Council of Canadians

Maude Barlow chairs the board of Food and Water Watch and is the senior adviser on water to the president of the U.N. General Assembly. Her new book is "Blue Covenant, The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle For the Right to Water" (McClelland & Stewart, 2007).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Scientists: No to Genetically Modified Crops, Yes to Paradigm Shift
Scientists say India should not believe false promises of genetically modified crops
- Common Dreams staff
Published on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 by Common Dreams
A group of scientists said that ecological farming and a shift towards a holistic paradigm, not genetically modified (GM) crops, are the answer for India's future agricultural needs.
(photo: gmarinich via Flickr) The scientists made their statements in New Delhi at a media briefing organized by Aruna Rodrigues, lead petitioner in a public interest litigation seeking a moratorium on GM testing in India, the Times of India reports.
Prof. Hans Herren, Co-Chair of IAASTD, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, who was awarded the World Food Prize in 1995, said, "What we really need is a shift in paradigm, where a holistic approach drives our interventions in agriculture without reductionist solutions hogging the center-stage and taking away precious resources."
Professor Jack Heinemann from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, pointed out the failure of GM crops to address food insecurity. "Only two countries in the world, both in South America, grow GM on more than 40% of their agricultural land and both are suffering from an increased food insecurity. Most of their poor neighbors that have not adopted GM have improving food security statistics," he said.
This point was echoed by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who cited his group's studies showing that conventional farming outperformed GM farming.
Dr. Walter Goldstein of the Wisconsin-based Mandaamin Institute emphasized not only the failure in the U.S. of GM crops to outperform conventional crops but also the high price farmers pay when they choose GM seeds. "The path of adopting widespread use of high-tech GMO technology in the USA has been accompanied by greater consolidation of resources and power for few seed companies, higher seed prices, greater risk for farmers and less choice in varieties with hardly any increase in productivity."


Juan Cole; public intellectual, prominent blogger, essayist and professor of history. (photo: Informed Comment)Top Ten ways Corporate Food is Making us Fat and threatening our Food Supplies  

Posted on 09/23/2012 by Juan
While it is much better than the fascisms of the Right and the Left, one of the big drawbacks of corporate democracy is that the people are often outgunned. Large corporations account for half of the national economy and pay more for lobbyists to write and pass laws in Congress favorable to themselves than they do in Federal taxes. The way in which the Congressional committees that are supposed to watch certain industries actually become beholden to them is called ‘legislative capture.’
For this reason, I don’t entirely trust the US government any more to look out for our health. We are increasingly exposed to thousands of chemicals that haven’t really been tested (plastics are full of them). We’re not even given the courtesy of knowing which foods are genetically modified so we can make a market choice for the natural ones.
Here are the top ten disturbing news stories about our food that have come across my screen in recent days, and which inspire a certain amount of alarm in me.
1. Sugary, i.e. non-diet soft drinks make you fat, especially if you are genetically at greater risk of being fat. According to a study about to appear in the New England Journal of Medicine, teens who had genes that disposed them to put on weight easily were twice as likely to be obese if they drank a lot of soda pop. Pre-modern human beings who lived in conditions of food scarcity probably tried to bulk up when they saw a drought becoming prolonged, and there would have been a survival advantage to being able to put on weight quickly when you were trying. So likely those teens’ bodies thought all the sugar they were being fed was a sign of famine coming, and obliged by storing a lot of fat to get through it. For a certain percentage of the population, extra calories are actually subject to a multiplier effect inside their own bodies. (It can even happen to Lady Gaga.)
Soft drinks have like 160- 180 calories per can and nobody can afford all that in their diet even once daily.
In other words, not only is Mayor Bloomberg’s policy of banning supersized soft drinks in New York justified, actually people should just never drink sugary soft drinks.
2. Here’s the kicker. It isn’t just the sugar that puts some people at risk of obesity. It is bisphenol A or BPA, a chemical used to coat the aluminum cans in which soft drinks come (as well as soup and other cans) so as to prevent them from rusting. A recent study in JAMA found that the one fourth of the thousands of children and adolescents in their study that had the most BPA in their urine were twice as likely to be obese as those in the one fourth that had the least BPA. So I guess if they were drinking sugary sodas out of cans, they were really doomed to be obese. BPA has been implicated in other studies in “diabetes, cardiovascular disease, reproductive disorders, and obesity in adults.”
Think you can get away from BPA by avoiding cans and going to plastic bottles instead? Think again. It is widely used in the making of clear plastics, and there is evidence that it seeps into us from them.
When exactly will the US government have enough evidence to ban BPA? When we’re all 400 pounds?
3. The Consumer Union has found concerning levels of arsenic in American-grown rice. Apparently much rice in the US is grown in the Southwest and West on land that used to be used for cotton, on which arsenic-laden pesticides were used for decades. Arsenic can cause cancer. Me, I never like to hear the phrases “arsenic” and “in your food” in the same sentence.
4. Over-use of antibiotics may be making us fat. There is now scientific evidence that the antibiotics activate bacteria that are good at turning carbohydrates into fat. That is, the Atkins and Manhattan diets may work mainly because a lot of people’s gut microbe population had already been messed with by the antibiotics. People are always trying to get antibiotics for their children with viruses, which can’t anyway be treated that way. Ironically, they may not only be giving them medicine inappropriate to their malady but may be priming them for diabetes and heart disease later in life.
5. Speaking of antibiotics, 150 scientists and physicians are calling for the end of non-medical antibiotics being routinely administered to livestock All that is happening is that we are evolving bacteria to be resistant to antibiotics, and are already killing 100,000 Americans a year that way (more than die of AIDS). This baneful practice, they warn, has to stop.
6. Genetically modified corn, treated with the pesticide Roundup, were found by a French team of scientists to cause more frequent and more rapidly growing tumors in rats than ordinary corn. The study has been criticized and it is based on a small N. But, I’ll tell you what. Let us decide. Could we please have the genetically modified vegetables marked as such, Congress? I know we ordinary folk don’t pay you the way the corporations pay you, but you are supposed to be representing us lab rats too.
7. The global collapse of bee colonies, a severe threat to the world food supply, according to three new studies, is likely being in some part caused by a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. France and Germany have already banned them. But Corporatocracy America has not. Are there other factors involved in the great bee die-off? Sure, but why not remove a major factor when we can? Oh, and by the way, see 4 above, because another cause may be genetically modified plants that have absorbed pesticides into their genetic structure.
8. It is not just what corporations put in our food. It is also how they produce it that endangers us. Industrialized, often state-subsidized fishing is rapidly depleting world fish stocks. I’ve heard David Suzuki worry that half of all marine species could be extinct in 50 years at this rate, between overfishing and ocean acidification (caused by all the extra carbon we are pumping into the air at the Koch brothers’ behest).
10. 40% of US corn production goes to making ethanol, and at a time of drought and high food prices, this policy is indefensible. The US has to relax the laws mandating ethanol. Although ethanol claims to be carbon-neutral because the corn takes carbon dioxide out of the air when it is growing, processing it into ethanol releases a lot of greenhouse gases. Moreover the policy of burning it in cars is apparently on the verge of causing malnutrition.