Response to NY Time’s Antibiotic Runoff

David, et. al.

Edo McGowan, M.D. responded to this editorial below. These are important points and should be considered in future comments on the IRWP, NSCARP, upcoming Laguna Foundation meeting, and all TMDL letters and communications.

This is a time-bomb waiting to go off, but as he says, just keep your eyes on OJ and you won’t notice a thing. HR It gets much worse. The application of pesticides and farm chemicals, including fertilizers carry large loads of heavy metals and other toxic substances. The toxic waste industry found a loophole in the RCRA law that says if you blend toxic wastes and that then becomes a saleable product, you shift responsibility and liability.

Thus what is happening is that the fertilizer manufacturers are blending pollutants into fertilizer and this goes out on the lands. This also happened for radioactive waste, but that raised such a flap that it was pulled back, but not stopped. All this causes the soil bacteria to develop resistance to these materials. The metabolic machinery is not that much different from that needed to cause resistance to pharmaceuticals and antibiotics. Thus what one finds is that the heavily farm lands already have resistant bacteria, but the genetic information for human disease and antibiotic resistance is not there just yet. Then when sewage or animal waste goes on, the already primed system accepts the new information–voila–superbugs. EPA and USDA are well aware of this but since they are clientele captured, nothing is done about it. The CDC that, through its normative agenda, runs around waving its arms in the air and screaming the sky is falling in on antibiotic resistance and the WHO that says antibiotic resistance is a global crisis all know of this but have been told to butt out.

If you pull back the rug, there is a lot of dirt under the carpet—it is important, however, to watch OJ’s progress to keep your mind occupied on other issues.

NYTimes September 18, 2007 Editorial Antibiotic Runoff One of the persistent problems of industrial agriculture is the inappropriate use of antibiotics. It’s one thing to give antibiotics to individual animals, case by case, the way we treat humans. But it’s a common practice in the confinement hog industry to give antibiotics to the whole herd, to enhance growth and to fight off the risk of disease, which is increased by keeping so many animals in such close quarters. This is an ideal way to create organisms resistant to the drugs. That poses a risk to us all.

A recent study by the University of Illinois makes the risk even more apparent. Studying the groundwater around two confinement hog farms, scientists have identified the presence of several transferable genes that confer antibiotic resistance, specifically to tetracycline. There is the very real chance that in such a rich bacterial soup these genes might move from organism to organism, carrying the ability to resist tetracycline with them. And because the resistant genes were found in groundwater, they are already at large in the environment.

There are two interdependent solutions to this problem, and hog producers should embrace them both. The first solution — the least likely to be acceptable in the hog industry — is to ban the wholesale, herdwide use of antibiotics. The second solution is to continue to tighten the regulations and the monitoring of manure containment systems. The trouble is that there is no such thing as perfect containment. The consumer, of course, has the choice to buy pork that doesn’t come from factory farms. The justification for that kind of farming has always been efficiency, and yet, as so often happens in agriculture, the argument breaks down once you look at all the side effects.

The trouble with factory farms is that they are raising more than pigs. They are raising drug-resistant bugs as well.