FEED – Food & Environmental Electronic Digest - August 2005
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- Victory for public health! Poultry antibiotic banned
- Organic: good for you and the planet too
- World's largest food service company discourages antibiotic use
- Alaska takes a stand on engineered fish
- Dairy cattle welfare is poor
- Increasing crop yield through genome analysis
1. Victory for public health! Poultry antibiotic banned
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cancelled the approval of the fluoroquinolone antibiotic Baytril for poultry. It’s the first time a veterinary drug has been banned due to concerns about antibiotic resistance and human health, and represents an important success in the ongoing campaign to limit antibiotic use in livestock. The FDA found that Baytril’s use spurs the development of antibiotic resistant infections in humans that are treated with closely related antibiotics like Cipro. The rate of antibiotic resistant strains of foodborne illness in humans has risen dramatically, from 1 percent in 1996, when Baytril was approved for use in poultry, to 20 percent in 2002. The FDA first proposed the cancellation five years ago, but appeals by the manufacturer, Bayer Corporation, have kept it on the market since then. Read a New York Times article about the ban.
2. Organic: good for you and the planet too
According to a review of a 22-year farming trial, organic farming offers environmental benefits over conventional farming. These benefits include improved soil health, increased soil carbon storage, 30 percent lower fossil fuel use, reduced erosion, and water conservation--and its yields are just as high as those from systems that use pesticides. The review, published in BioScience, concluded that conventional agriculture should adopt more traditional organic techniques, particularly during drought conditions. The review is available for a $10 fee; read a longer summary.
3. World’s largest food service company discourages antibiotic use
Global food service giant Compass Group announced it will only buy pork and chicken from producers who don’t use medically important antibiotics as growth promoters. The policy, the first of its kind for pork, was drafted in cooperation with Compass Group’s primary pork producer, Smithfield Foods. The policy also requires suppliers to report and reduce their use of antibiotics over time. It does not restrict the purchase of pork from hogs who received antibiotics because they, or other hogs nearby, were ill. Compass Group uses 30 million pounds of pork annually. Read an Associated Press article on the policy.
4. Alaska takes a stand on engineered fish
Alaska has become the first state to require labeling of genetically engineered food. Both Alaska’s House and Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 25, which requires labeling of genetically engineered fish and shellfish. The bill was signed into law by Governor Frank Murkowski in May, and will take effect August 17. Read the bill.
5. Dairy cattle welfare is poor
A review of modern dairy practices by Farm Sanctuary concluded that the industry has moved toward more intensive production at the expense of animal welfare. Production is being consolidated in mega-dairies with hundreds or thousands of cows, while the total number of farms is half what it was in 1991. Milk production per cow is 66 percent higher than it was 30 years ago, and cows are sent to slaughter after only 3-4 lactation cycles, despite a potential 20-year lifespan. Most cows do not have access to pasture. Practices including tail cutting and rough handling, and conditions like lameness and mastitis (infected udder) are common. Read the report.
6. Increasing crop yield through genome analysis
Scientists from Japan and China have succeeded in characterizing a gene responsible for grain production in rice by using a combination of techniques including analyzing information from the rice genome. The ability to characterize and understand the function of genes that determine important traits like yield, sets the stage for a new era in crop improvement. Although the discovery may lead the way to new genetically engineered varieties of rice, it may also support more sophisticated versions of classical plant breeding, enabled by breeders’ far greater understanding
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