Getting Antibiotics Out Of Our Food

THE VIEW FROM HERE-As a follow-up to last week’s CityWatch column on animal abuse, it is timely that the FDA has recently issued a ruling to eliminate all antibiotics from farm animal feed (with the exception of limited, authorized antibiotics for animals whose illnesses require such treatment).  The modifications would be under expert veterinary oversight and would result in a more expeditious implementation (instead of a product-by-product regulatory action). 

It is thought, I hope not naïvely, that the collaborative approach among the Federal government, agribusiness, and drug manufacturers will produce more positive results in a shorter amount of time for both human and animal health. 

The biggest abusers, such as Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta (and others), have been given 90 days to remove these additives voluntarily.  After that, companies that continue to utilize these antibiotics will be guilty of violating Federal law, resulting in meaningful consequences for disregarding the mandate.  

On the other hand, animals whose health is threatened or are suffering or whose death might be imminent if they are not treated in a timely manner, veterinary-prescribed drugs (that are presently available Over the Counter (OTC) to the farmer) will be permitted in order to “treat, control, and/or prevent disease” in those animals in question.   

Agribusiness has been notorious about utilizing those drugs in their food products.   According to Elizabeth Weise, “Antiobiotics and antiomicrobials are routinely mixed into the feed of animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys to make them grow faster and put on more weight,”  and, thus, these farm animals require less feed.  Food animals sold by the pound obviously bring in more profit. 

A major down-side of this drug-additive approach is the increased resistance to antibiotics on the part of humans who consume these altered foods and find that their immune systems have been compromised.  It has been reported that, yearly, thousands of consumers in this country alone have died from diseases from which they should otherwise have fully recovered had it not been for the use of drug-altered farm animal diets. 

As a side, but no less important, issue is the fact that “94% of our seed varieties have [become extinct]” because of mismanagement and indifference to the importance of this food source for humans and other animals.  Many of the same companies mentioned above are guilty of diminishing our seed diversity which is key to maintaining our planet’s biodiversity and health.  

Henry Kissinger has offered a point that I never considered before, “If you want to control the people, you control the food.”  Vandana Shiva added, “If you want to control the food, you control the seed.”  The bottom line, once again, is all about power and wealth for the few in order to maintain a class system that is intolerably subservient and inequitable for the many 

Monsanto, incidentally, has frequently found itself in the news regarding its lawsuits against farmers who have purchased its modified seeds.  According to Monsanto (and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court--no surprise), Monsanto should maintain “ownership” of the future generations of these seeds (and, therefore, profit from future sales) because of the time and investment in developing those seeds in the first place!  Does that mean that Monsanto can earn profits in perpetuity from the labors of farmers who use its products?!  There is another reason why elections have long-term consequences—voting for President does mean voting for eventual Supreme Court nominees and the balance of power that emanates from the decisions of these nine Justices. 

Back to our food supply, it is significant that under the new government guidelines, the antibiotics that are currently being used for human therapies will no longer be permitted for medicinal treatment of food animals.  It is also a positive sign that the American Meat Institute supports these modifications because, its spokesperson says, “it is consistent with protecting both animals and public health.” 

Now it is up to us to be vigilant watchdogs over food production and packaging, animal care, human health practices, development of prescription and OTC drugs.  We cannot take for granted that the American government (at all its levels) will be responsible for sufficient oversight for us.  We must, on our own and in conjunction with our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, be accountable for our own quality of life!


(Rosemary Jenkins is a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Coalition. She also writes for CityWatch.)









Vol 11 Issue 101

Pub: Dec 17, 2013