Monday, March 16, 2009

industrial agribusiness rant

OK, this isn't really going to be a rant. However, I've been taking a course through our church entitled "Menu for the Future" which is very thought-provoking. We've been discussing a collection of articles and book excerpts that deal with the issues surrounding our agricultural practices, food production and distribution, ecology, sustainability, and health. I got interested in this after reading Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Taking an in-depth tour of our food supply business is a little like taking "the red pill" in the movie The Matrix. You can take the blue pill and go on enjoying your food in blissful ignorance, or take the red pill and see what is truly going on but your food innocence is then ruined. I love all kinds of food, and it saddens me to find out that often I am enjoying it at the expense of all kinds of wrongs being done - to other human beings, to animals, to the planet, to my own health. At the same time, without our current system, would we be able to feed our growing population at all? I've heard it argued that if we only practiced organic, non-genetically modified, sustainable etc. agriculture, much of the world's population would starve. Not convinced this is true, because the counterargument is that we are using some 50-80% of the world's farmland to feed livestock, not people. Who knows what to think? Anyway...

So in today's New York Times I saw this article pointing out the practice of routine antibiotic administration to animals - and the results of that. He points out that 70% of all antibiotics in the US go to healthy livestock.

"Yet the central problem here isn’t pigs, it’s humans. Unlike Europe and even South Korea, the United States still bows to agribusiness interests by permitting the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed. That’s unconscionable.

The peer-reviewed Medical Clinics of North America concluded last year that antibiotics in livestock feed were “a major component” in the rise in antibiotic resistance. The article said that more antibiotics were fed to animals in North Carolina alone than were administered to the nation’s entire human population."

The article goes on to describe the rise of MRSA, not only in our hospitals but now in our food supply. Sheesh. I know the issues are complex here - and this is just one issue among many - but I hope that articles like this will continue to raise awareness and public support to press our leaders to make some positive changes. I have hope that Obama's administration will be more open to changes like this, but the business interests at stake are large and powerful. We'll see.

And now let's go off to eat some healthy fruits, grains, and vegetables! (The above article kinda makes you lose your appetite for pork, doesn't it?)

No comments: