No More Superbugs, Superweeds, or Pesticide Poisoning

Chemicals, the synthetic and problem causing type, show up multiple times in almost every aspect of our food system. This week, three articles delve into three different aspects of our food supply to say “enough is enough.”

Superbugs,” or antibiotic resistant bacteria, are due in large part to overuse of antibiotics in livestock operations. Used as a preemptive measure, these drugs help animals grow faster, but as they grow so do latent bacteria, mutating to be inured to the drugs. The American Medical Association officially adopted a resolution calling for the ban on the blatant overuse of these drugs. Lydia Zuraw of Food Safety News gives an account of Dr. David Wallinga, of Keep Antibiotics Working:

Infectious disease doctors are “quite freaked out by the fact that their antibiotics are not working a lot of the time now,” he noted. “The AMA policy is a reflection of the increasing level of crisis that these doctors feel, but there’s still a disconnect in the general public at how serious a problem it is.”

It is nice to see such a mainstream and politically involved group take such a progressive stance. In a similar fashion, this week, the Des Moines Register, a paper whose home state is 95% covered in corn, ran a powerful and inspirational op-ed on the dangers of farming practices that create “Superweeds.” Similar to Superbugs in their chemical resistant constitutions, these plants come about as a result of overused glyphosate (a Monsanto product) on GMO crops designed themselves to withstand the herbicide. Responding to an earlier Des Moines Register piece on Superweeds, Law Prof. Neil D. Hamilton explains that the industry’s solution is marketing another GMO crop that will be resistant to another, potentially more harmful herbicide, 2-4D. Admonishing caution, common sense and corporate restraint, Hamilton writes:  

Before we race to the next silver bullet solution, perhaps those most responsible for getting us into this mess could show some humility and admit things didn't work out quite like they planned. Unless you are cynical enough to believe this was the plan all along, given the predictability of Superweeds. Having a new product to sell and crisis-motivated buyers could yield big profits.

Weeds aren’t the only pests to farmers as insects pose a real threat to the monocropped large scale farms that currently drive our food system. Reporting on the Task Force on Systemic Pesticide’s latest comprehensive study on the dangerous effects that a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids have on our pollinator populations, Damian Carrington of the Guardian gives a wonderful synopsis of the findings. After the concerning summation, Carrington concludes:

Almost as concerning as what is known about neonicotinoids is what is not known, the researchers said. Most countries have no public data on the quantities or locations of the systemic pesticides being applied. The testing demanded by regulators to date has not determined the long-term effect of sub-lethal doses, nor has it assessed the impact of the combined impact of the cocktail of many pesticides encountered in most fields.

So, while there plenty of problems with our current industrialized food system, there are also plenty of people raising awareness and fighting to make it better. Let’s all do our part to be those people in homes and communities!


Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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