Monthly Archives: June 2009

Activism Healthy Living

What Do Farms And Antibiotic Drugs Have In Common?

Did you know that eighty percent of antibiotic use in the U.S. goes to farm livestock to help them grow quickly and prevent disease?

The use of antibiotics in humans for everything from strep to staph infections to the common cold has become proliferate in modern society. It is not uncommon for a person to take antibiotic drugs 3 – 5 times per year.

From Medical News Today, a November 2008 article released the following information:

“in 35 hospitals studied in 2006, about 63.5% of discharged patients (492,721 of 775,731) received an antibacterial drug. Data from five years in 22 hospitals revealed that between 2002 and 2006, the average total antibacterial use increased from 798 days of therapy per every 1,000 patient-days to 855 per 1,000 patient-days”.

According to a recent article in Infectious Disease News:

The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey was used in 1992 to assess antibiotic prescribing practices for children given a diagnosis of common cold, upper respiratory tract infection, or bronchitis (Nyquist et al, JAMA). This study found that antibiotics were prescribed to 44% of children with common colds, 46% with upper respiratory tract infections, and 75% with bronchitis. The same study reported that an estimated 53 percent of children ages 3 -17 who presented with sore throats and tested positive for step bacteria were administered antibiotics.

Antibiotics on the farm

Besides the doctor’s office and hospital, much of the meat and dairy products we eat contain antibiotics. According to The Union of Concerned Scientists, approximately 70 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are now fed to animals raised for human consumption.  For decades farmers have administered antibiotics to animals to keep them from getting sick – and the sickness rate is high in a factory farm environment where animals are crammed together in close quarters, standing in their own feces and unable to move to cleaner areas, and are fed the wrong kinds of foods – genetically-modified grains, corns, and soy – which make ruminants sick (that’s cattle), who are intended to eat and digest grasses, clover, and alfalfa.

Animals receive antibiotics such as tetracyclines, Penicillins, sulfonamidesin, and macrolides, directly in their feed and/or water, and this low-grade dosing continues throughout most of their short lives. The practice of treating all animals – even those who aren’t sick – encourages the growth and mutation of virulent strains of bacteria that can and do spread to humans.

“Antibiotic medicines are losing effectiveness on humans due to their increased use in animal feed,” said Margaret Mellon, Ph.D, JD, director of the food and environment program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Animals raised in natural environments rarely require the use of antibiotics. Americans who choose meat produced this way are making conscious decisions to ensure that  antibiotics will still be working when they or their family need them.”

Here are some startling statistics (from Orville Schell, “The Reliance on Drugs in the U.S. Meat Industry) :

  • In 1979, U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers marketed $243.7 million worth of antibiotics for animal use. Since 1960, the annual consumption rate has risen almost ten-fold. In 1978, the FDA estimated that over six million pounds of antibiotics ended up in animals, much of it in meat producing animals for human consumption.
  • Since 1949, when anti-microbial feed additives were first discovered to promote weight gain as well as control disease, more than one billion head of cattle have been raised with them. In the U.S., almost all chickens and turkeys, 85 percent of all hogs, 75 percent of all cattle and 50 percent of all sheep are now fed low daily doses of antibiotics for prolonged periods of time.

What happens when we consume meat full of antibiotics?

The continued consumption of antibiotic-containing meat increases the rate of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the world. According to information released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, food-borne illnesses are becoming more difficult to treat due to the increase in antibiotic-resistant strains and the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics used as a first-line defense.

Food-borne bacteria are caused largely as a result of repeated antibiotic use. More dangerous even than their antibiotic-resistant counterparts, food-borne bacteria are more difficult to treat and may require multiple dosing of antibiotics, lengthier hospital stays, and various other interventions before being destroyed.

This resistant bacteria has been the cause of an additional burden on our health care system to the tune of 4 to 5 billion dollars annually. Of roughly 2.4 million Campylobacter infections in the U.S., nearly half of these have been found to be resistant to at least one antibiotic. Nearly 14 percent of these are resistant to at least two or more drugs.

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD., C.N.S. (author of Nutrition With A Mission and The Fast Track Detox Diet) says that when you eat a large amount of protein and cheese from conventionally-raised animals, you are taking into your body secondhand antibiotics from those animals – and that those drugs basically kill off your body’s store of friendly bacteria (stored in your digestive tract which houses your immune system), making you vulnerable to disease and illness. Without these good bacteria, you cannot digest vitamins, eliminate toxins, nor absorb fiber. When your body is depleted of this flora, you are at risk for developing diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, candida, irritable bowel, and many others.

The vegetarian argument against eating meat

Vegetarians and vegans alike will site the presence of antibiotics in meat as a good reason to avoid eating it. There are a variety of other reasons vegetarians offer against meat eating as well. But the rationale behind avoiding  meat fails to take into account the fact that good, naturally-raised meats are available which do not have these health risks and should be eaten in order to maintain health. If all you are eating is factory-raised meat, then there are certainly many reasons why that variety is harmful to health and should be avoided.

For more information about healthy meat, read:

Why Meat Gets the Heat

Whole and Healthy Meat…Does it Really Exist?

Fruits and vegetables are not exempt

Conventionally produced produce is can also be exposed to antibiotics. When farmers use fertilizer from animals that are administered antibiotics, those substances are transferred to the growing fruits and vegetables.

The Journal of Environmental Quality released a report in 2005 ( published in New Standard News) that three test crops – corn, green onions and cabbage were found to absorb chlortetracycline through the soil in which they are grown. “The drug, which is part of the tetracycline class of antibiotics, is often administered to pigs and other farmed animals as part of their food. Since the animals cannot process all of the drug, it is passed along in feces, which are then packaged and sold for use as fertilizer.

Earlier studies examining the use of antibiotics in animal feed found that their presence can kill or stunt plant growth. The overuse of antibiotics can also contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and germ strains”.

What can you do to avoid antibiotics?

Maintain a healthy diet: avoid ALL conventionally-raised meats, dairy products, and produce! Here is a list of things to eat:

  • Organic, grass-fed meats (beef, lamb, pork, and game) and pasture-raised poultry, eggs from pasture-raised poultry
  • Organic, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Organically-sourced, healthy fats like extra virgin coconut and olive oil, palm oils, flax seed oil, real dairy products – milk butter, cheese, and cream – from pasture-raised cows
  • Organic raw nuts and seeds
  • True whole, organic grains that are sprouted and soaked
  • Home-made fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and lacto-fermented vegetables

If you maintain a healthy lifestyle and find yourself becoming sick, try natural treatments first before rushing to out for prescription drugs and other medications. Be willing to try several things before going on to pharmaceutical intervention – each person’s body is individual, and a one-size-fits all treatment plan simply won’t work for everyone.

Here is a short list of useful and powerful treatments for various ailments: colloidal silver, oil of oregano, raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, aloe vera juice or gel, and a variety of many different herbs and plants. Seek the guidance of a  knowledgeable health care practioner who can guide you through treatment to maximize your dollar and minimize time you spend getting well.

This article is posted on Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please take a look at all the other great real food articles posted there.

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Real Food

Being A Food Activist In A World Driven By Tradition, Control, And Profit

 

Do you wonder about where your food comes from? Are you frustrated by the current system managing our food supply? Do you find that obtaining food from a reputable, healthy source seems difficult and you desire to make a change?

Most importantly: Do you believe everyone has a right to safe food from clean sources? If you answered yes to these questions, you might be a food activist.

Lately, food has become very political and having an opinion on food can actually lead to a great deal of dissension in relationships with other people, groups, and organizations. But through activism, persistence, and education, we really can make a difference and change the way our food is produced for the common good. Being a food activist is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. Here’s why:

What is a food activist?

A food activist is someone who cares about where our food comes from and who makes a conscientious effort to support local and sustainable agriculture whether it be to become an actual sustainable farmer or food producer, or to be a consumer of sustainable products. A food activist also becomes involved in some way with education and dissemination of information about sustainable living and food to the public and wider communities.

Why should we care where our food comes from, and what difference does it make being a food activist?

The loss of local food production has been devastating.  Diminished food production causes the necessity for our food to travel lengthy distances over many days or weeks to reach your dinner table. The result of this travel and toxin exposure is the loss of nutritional density and flavor. Distance traveled by our food also contributes to wastes of energy that can only be maintained by government subsidies and the acquisition of cheaper oil which is dictated by foreign policy. The Worldwatch Institute reports “in the United States, refrigerating, transporting, and storing food uses eight times as much energy as is provided by the food itself.”

Indeed, industrial farming has had widespread implications:

  • The presence of this type of toxic farming has not only led to the destruction of our soil, but also our water, and air.
  • Pesticides sprayed on commercial crops are then fed to animals. This causes health problems for the animals and you when you eat the meat and other products from these animals.
  • The use of medications and antibiotics in animal production is heavy and has contributed to resistant-strain bacteria. We are also finding that increasing amounts of our foods contain chemicals, preservatives, stabilizers, and toxins which cause further damage to our health and the environment.
  • Factory farms also contribute greatly to the overall human-caused component of climate change occurring.
  • The economic impact of industrial farming is also substantial, and it should be noted that the far-reaching implications of all factors mentioned here only add to the weighty economic burden in which our nation now finds itself.

Who stands to gain from all of this?

None other than agribusiness giants such as Cargill, ConAgra, Tyson, and Smithfield, big biotechnology companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, Bayer, food manufacturers, processors, and related corporations, lobbyists, special interest groups, and the government (think revolving door between the corporations and government positions, which is very common). All are pushing and making legal unethical and reckless practices, regulations, and laws in exchange for power and profit.

Who loses in the conventional, industrial food system?

The environment due to the input of massive toxic chemicals, mismanagement of resources, and the accumulation of concentrated animal wastes. Since 1960, half of our topsoil has disappeared. We are currently experiencing the loss of topsoil 17 times faster than it can be replaced.

Farmers industrial farming only pays the farmer 7 cents per food dollar. The majority is paid to marketers, processors, and input suppliers. The result is a dramatic concentration of factory and industrial farmland as well as the loss of smaller, family farms. The region of western North Carolina alone has experienced a loss of 70% of farmland in the last 50 years.

The consumer because the food we consume is now developed and grown for transportation and shelf life rather than for nutrition or taste, we lose control of how food is produced because we no longer have a relationship with the farmers who produce our food. We have experienced a loss of countryside, forests, and of farms. Most significant of all, our health is profoundly impacted by the mechanism of factory, for-profit, and industrial farming. Our life spans are longer, but we are now experiencing degenerative and chronic diseases at a larger and more frequent rate than ever before in history. Our children are also now developing these disorders at younger ages than the previous generation.

The animals in industrial farming, animals are treated in the most inhumane manner and live in ghastly conditions. They are not allowed to behave normally, are exposed to filthy environments, are often subjected to gross abuse and neglect, and by these standards are unable to live happy lives (and sometimes they don’t even get exposed to sunlight). There’s only one question to ask here – Do you really want to support business that makes money in this manner and consume meat coming from animals in these conditions?

What can YOU do to help our food system?

Eat local food! The biggest criticism people have about sustainable and organic food is that there is no feasible way to feed organic, healthy food to everyone. But if each community started supporting their own local agriculture, food growers, and merchants, we’d find that assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth. The whole point of supporting local efforts to grow and produce food is just that – when you support it, it thrives and feeds its community.

Ask your farmer questions, and know how your food is grown and produced.

Buy non-GMO (genetically-modified foods). GM foods are pervasive in our food supply and there is much evidence and data showing just how harmful these substances are for our health and the environment. Read Busting Myths About GMOs and 4 Ways to Avoid GMOs in the Foods You Buy.

It’s really quite simple,  but has become complicated by arcane laws and regulations that were originally put into place to feed massive amounts of people for the cheapest price – and allowing the almighty dollar to be the prevailing factor - which has now completely overtaken our health care and food systems like never before in history. When you place profit over health and well-being, there will always be consequences.

Do research online to locate local, sustainable farmers and food producers. EVERY community has them. Many communities now have weekly farmer’s markets where farmers and merchants come together in one convenient location to offer the best of your community.

Don’t be discouraged by what you hear from others who say that eating healthier is more expensive. Eating healthy can cost more up front, but it doesn’t always have to be incredibly expensive. You can also find economical buys and deals within your local community because the food doesn’t have to travel (remember, food costs more if it has to travel from somewhere else and it won’t be fresh, and will also contain toxins from shipping).

Read:

3 tips for eating organic on a budget

Is cheap food really cheap? The hidden costs of industrial food

Waste not, want not: tips for saving in the kitchen

Proof that real food doesn’t have to cost a bundle, is nourishing, and satisfies!

Learn to do everything from scratch at home soak or sprout your own grains, sprout, ferment, make yogurt, make lacto-fermented vegetables with whey from your raw milk or home made yogurt, etc. If you don’t know how, do a search online – there is a wealth of information available at your fingertips for free.

Don’t forget the hidden costs of eating industrial food environment, economic impact, taxes, the health care system, your own health, etc. These are all costs that must be accounted for – and even if it’s not now, a day will come , whether it is in the near or distant future, when the cost must be paid by YOU.

Join organizations and spread the word! Learn about local and national that place an emphasis on fighting for safe, sustainable food:

Start a garden or join a community garden group. Try the American Community Garden web site. Visit the Backyard Gardener site for a wealth of information about getting started and maintaining your own garden.

Start a blog, write articles, or write a book. There is always more room in the world for good writers who can convey their thoughts to others and motivate people through the written word.

Read books, watch films, and educate yourself on the issues. Here are just a few:

Films:

Food, Inc.

King Corn

SuperSize Me

Fresh

Fast Food Nation

Fat Head

The Oiling of America

The Future of Food – watch online for free!

Farmageddon – coming soon, hopefully to a theatre near you!

Learn about the laws and regulations governing our food, sign petitions (Just Food: Food & Farm Issues and Food Democracy Now ) and contact your congressmen, local legislature, and the President.

The Farm-to-Consumer-Legal-Defense Fund is a non-profit organization that seeks to protect the constitutional right of the nation’s family farms to provide processed and unprocessed farm foods directly to consumers through any legal means, protect the constitutional right of consumers to obtain unprocessed and processed farm foods directly from family farms, and protect the nation’s family farms from harassment by federal, state, and local government interference with food production and on-farm food processing.

Visit the USDA and FDA web sites and contact these agencies with questions and concerns.

This article is featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please go visit Kristen’s site and have a look at all the other great real food posts there.

Do you have experiences with food activism that you’d like to share? How have your efforts made a difference? We want to hear from you!