Steak with a heaping side of antibiotic resistance
Posted Jun 24 2010 8:20am
I’ve written before about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance and how doctors give out these drugs like tic tacs. Well, now the story has taken on an unexpected twist. And this time it involves cows.
First, a bit of background…
In the early 1960’s raising livestock suddenly became big business. Traditional farming methods began to get squeezed out, as factory farming became the norm. Agri-business was born and along with it the practice of pumping livestock full of antibiotics.
Fast forward to today and more than 70% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are being used on cows, pigs and chickens that aren’t even sick. No, they’re used to promote growth and ward of the effects of the unsanitary conditions.
I shudder to think what all those antibiotics we are ingesting are doing to us. But what if I told you it gets worse? Because it does.
Now researchers at the University of Hong Kong have pinpointed a gene, aacC2, that’s responsible for antibiotic resistance in livestock. And, here’s the really frightening part. There’s evidence that these genes can be transferred from animals to humans through the DNA of bacteria like E. coli.
Think about that for just a moment. We’re talking about a cross species move here! From the cow, to your dinner table, to your genes.
But that’s just the tip of one very ugly iceberg. As these genes continue to spread through our food chain the antibiotic resistance problem is just going to get worse…much worse. In fact this species-hopping gene is likely already responsible for the surge in increasingly hard-to-treat urinary tract infections.
Meanwhile there’s very little incentive for those Big Farming execs to make any changes. Why would they? These literal cash cows are helping them rake in far too many profits for them to stop to worry about how their actions are damaging our health.
The good news (yes, there is some) is that organic and sustainable farming is on the rise. You can make the switch to locally raised small-farm meats easier than ever before. Better for the cows. Better for the environment. And better for you.