A City Boy on Farming 9: If we are what we eat, we’re in trouble

As part of a series of articles written for irish Execcutives “Blogger in Residence”

Antibiotics in foodOver the past year or so I have looked at the foods we eat as part of our modern lifestyle and discovered that our modern food chain leaves a lot to be desired. It may be that in the “first world” we have cracked the food availability issue, with more than enough food for all.  In fact 50% of all food produced never even reaches a table.  The question is this, what kind of food are we being presented with and what effect is it having on our long term health?  Has anyone connected the trend of children dying from the new lifestyle diseases, before their parents, to the food we eat?

Over the last year I have covered various subjects

The behaviour of the meat industry: http://tinyurl.com/c95czzd
The additives in our food:  http://tinyurl.com/nyfb4w2
The quality of the food we are asked to eat: http://tinyurl.com/mqs9ado
The Turkey industry: http://tinyurl.com/npbyh43.
The Pig industry: http://tinyurl.com/o3qppra

none of which covered the industry with glory

The food processing industry use the same additives for preserving their packaged “foods” travelling from production to fork,  as those are used in the manufacture of cleaning agents, lubricants, stain removers and degreasers. See “The additives in our food” above

For those on a meat based diet, the indiscriminative use of antibiotics in animal husbandry is creating a time bomb in our health industry as antibiotic resistant bugs transfer from animals to humans. If continued unchecked, all the advantages that antibiotics have brought to our health system since the early 20th Century will be wiped out.

The following is an abridged version of an article on antibiotic use in animals by Irish Radio and Television Presenter and Producer, Ella McSweeny

More than 25,000 people across Europe die each year because of bacterial infections that are impossible to treat.

We know that the same classes of antibiotics used to treat humans are given – sometimes liberally – to animals. Last month, a report from the Food and Drink Administration in the US revealed that the meat industry accounts for nearly four-fifths of all antibiotics used.

Scientists first spotted  MRSA ST398 nine years ago in the Netherlands. A sickly child was taken to hospital by her parents, who were pig farmers. When scientists tested the pigs, they found the same strain of MRSA in the child. “Pig MRSA” was born. In the Netherlands, ST398 accounts for just under 40 per cent of human MRSA cases.
In the UK last year scientists discovered MRSA ST398 in milk. In October, it was discovered that a retired part-time cattle farmer in the west of Ireland had been infected with the same MRSA ST398.

In 2012, Dr Mark Holmes, who led the UK team which discovered MRSA ST398 in milk commented, “If farmers were not screwed into the ground by the supermarkets and allowed to get a fair price for their milk, they would be able to use fewer antibiotics.”

In 2011, a new type of MRSA was discovered in two patients in Irish hospitals. This new strain belongs to a genetic lineage that was previously associated only with cows and other animals, but not humans.

That same year, UK scientists identified MRSA in cows with a near-identical profile to that of the Irish human MRSA. It’s clear that new strains of MRSA that can colonise humans are emerging from animal reservoirs in Ireland and Europe.

So what do we know about the use of antibiotics on Irish farms?  The worrying fact is that we don’t know much. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine does not collect data on antibiotic usage on Irish farms. Available data from the global market research specialist, GFK Kynetec, shows that antibiotic sales for large animals in Ireland is increasing.

According to Prof Séamus Fanning, food safety expert in UCD“ Increased surveillance of antibiotic use is critical or we will have no drugs available for future generations.”
The full article can be found here http://tinyurl.com/pc37ssl

It seems to me that, if the current system is allowed to progress without change,  we are moving inexorably towards the situation depicted in the movie “Soylent Green” where the food processing industry, having destroyed the ability to produce natural food from the planet, then ran out of raw materials for processed, concentrated nutrition, “biscuits” and resorted to using expired humans as the raw materials for their “Green Biscuits”

The question is, do we want “cheap” food or a healthy life?

To return to a theme in a previous blog, we give our farmers €1.6bn in CAP payments every year and this is a very small part of the €50bn the CAP will cost each year from now until 2020

Fifty billion Euros per annum and those of us who fund this through our taxes have no say in the quality of the food the farming and food distribution industry decide to produce.

Funding our food production by subsidies is a reasonable thing to do and I have no issue with the amount of money we allocate to the CAP. The issue is with how it is spent.

€50bn per annum,  we all know from our own businesses that people produce what they are paid to produce; it’s time we moved from a quantity based production system to a quality based production system.

He who pays the piper and all that……………..

How to manage this is a subject for another post, comments or ideas appreciated

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