Karen Mundy questioned the wisdom of the prohibition of anitbiotics in
organic farming. In the past year I have heard two first hand accounts
relevant to this discussion.
At the OEFFA conference last March, I heard an Amish farmer explain why
the prohibition on antibiotics would keep him from being certified organic,
although all his other practices seemed to be certifiable.
He raises all the feed (grain and rotational pastures for his herd of 30-40
milk cows) organically. He sells his milk to a cheese plant nearby and
most of the cheese is consumed by his community's church members at their
suppers. It would be hard to find a more ecologically appropriate dairy.
His cows are like members of the family and are kept for many years. If
one of them needed antibiotics, it would be hard to eliminate her from the
herd and family simply for that reason. In this kind of operation, cows
are milked for a relatively long time and from what I know of animals, the
experience that a cow has with a particular farm's pastures and practices
is a valuable asset to the farmer. Strict antibiotic prohibition here
would cut way into the farmers resources.
Since I'd just finished a two-month course of antibiotics to treat a nasty
case of Lyme Disease, and didn't feel substantially different from the
experience, I was inclined to be sympathetic with his argument.
Two weeks ago, at the CT NOFA conference, I heard how the other side works
from a Minnesota inspector who had inspected a large industrial "organic"
dairy for the company with the vast majority of the organic milk market.
He claimed that this 3000 cow "organic" dairy was next door to a
conventional dairy with the same owners. When an organic cow needed
antibiotic treatment, she was sent next door to the conventional dairy.
Although I'm opposed to the routine use of antibiotics in animals, and to
the mistreatment which may be the cause of the need for occasional
antibiotic treatment, I'd certainly cast my vote with the Amish farmer's
respect for ecosystems and animals over the rigid industrial rules.
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