Those of you tracking the issue of antibiotic use in industrial food
systems will want to check out Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly #690.
This takes you to the home page of the Environmental Research Foundation.
Click on "Rachel's" in the list of links to go to the current issue. If
you're delayed in reading this message, and miss this issue, you can search
or browse back issues of Rachel's at the above site as well.
The article is too long to repost here. However, to give you a flavor of
it, I've pasted the first few paragraphs below.
Ciao for niao.
HIDDEN COSTS OF ANIMAL FACTORIES
As the U.S. discards its family farms and in their place erects
factory farms, we might consider the costs. Here we will consider
only one cost: the harm to human health from increased use of
antibiotics in confined livestock operations, sometimes known as
As most people know, modern animal factories in the U.S. now
raise tens of thousands of chickens, cattle and pigs in the
smallest possible space. The animals are physically close to each
other -- jammed together might be a better description -- so an
outbreak of disease can pass readily from animal to animal. To
prevent this from happening -- and to promote rapid growth -- the
animals are regularly treated with antibiotics.
The Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of
Sciences, began to question this practice in 1989. The
Institute identified a hazard to human health: the creation of
antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can cause serious human
Resistance is a well-understood phenomenon. Not all bacteria are
affected equally by antibiotics -- some bacteria are genetically
able to resist the killing effects of an antibiotic. As a result,
when a group of bacteria is dosed with an antibiotic, some hardy
bacteria survive. These resistant bacteria reproduce and the next
time they are dosed with the same antibiotic, a hardy few survive
again. Eventually, the only surviving bacteria are immune to that
particular antibiotic. They have developed "resistance," and that
antibiotic has lost its effectiveness against those bacteria. As
time passes, some bacteria can develop resistance to multiple
antibiotics and these are referred to as "multi-drug-resistant
strains." Such multi-drug-resistant bacteria are a serious
medical concern because they may cause diseases that are
difficult or impossible to cure, the Institute of Medicine said
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