Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Monbiot Warns Britons About the Trojan Horse Lurking Inside a Trade Deal With the U.S.

To Guardian enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, there's danger lurking for the UK in any free trade deal with the United States: livestock laced with antibiotics.

It looks like a proper zombie apocalypse. Bacteria we thought we had conquered are on the march again, defeating almost all attempts to slaughter them. Having broken through the outer walls, they have reached our last lines of defence. Antibiotic resistance is among the greatest threats to human health.

Infections that were once easy to quash now threaten our lives. Doctors warn that routine procedures such as caesareans, hip replacements and chemotherapy could one day become impossible due to the risk of exposing patients to deadly infection. Already, in the European Union alone, 25,000 people are dying each year because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Yet our last defences – the rare drugs to which bacteria have not yet become immune – are being squandered with wild abandon. While most doctors seek to use them precisely and parsimoniously, some livestock farms literally slosh them around. They add them to the feed and water supplied to entire herds of cattle, pigs and poultry: not to treat illness, but to prevent it.

Or not even that. In the 1950s, farmers discovered that small quantities of antibiotics added to feed made animals grow faster. Using antibiotics as growth promoters – low doses routinely applied – is a perfect formula for generating bacterial resistance. Yet many countries continue to permit this reckless practice. The US Food and Drug Administration asks drug companies voluntarily to refrain from labelling antibiotics as growth promoters, suggesting they be rebranded for “new therapeutic indications”. Around 75% of the antibiotics used in the US are fed to farm animals. Our city is under siege, and we are knocking down our own defences.

This graphic illustrates what's happening and not just in the United States. I had to make it full size for legibility.

This chart, from Pew, shows antibiotic use in the United States for 2011.


Rural said...

I was aware, somewhat, of the threat to humanity from the overuse of "antibiotics" in the treatment of humans, Mound, but that the use of the same by those proportioning to provide 'safer' food for us in such volumes is truly scary......
As I think I have said before I am glad I near the end of my time on this planet but fear for what lies ahead for my (and the others to come) kids in the next few years!
What comes first. a slow death from a dying planet or a fast one from the actions of likes of Trump and his ilk?

The Mound of Sound said...

Rural, I'm at the same point as you. Dennis Miller once quipped that you can tell climate change is real. All you need to do is visit a nursing home when all the residents are lined up in their wheelchairs in the hall. When you look at their faces you can tell they know they've got a ticket on the last chopper out of Saigon.

The reason I still bother with this blog is that I too worry about the world we're bequeathing to our children and grandkids. Yes, it's looking pretty grim and climate change is just one part of the problem. But, grim as it may be, we can keep doing what we're doing and thereby ensure it's much more hellish for them than necessary. Or we can stop doing what they'll have to pay for after we're gone.

Writing these posts is much harder than reading them. It's depressing, discouraging, even painful. But somebody has to write this stuff, bark it out, a hundred times a day if need be. We have to keep hammering away because, without it, there's no hope.

Years ago I joined the Dark Mountain group. It comprises artists, writers, poets, and anyone who accepts climate change and our associated maladies for what they are. Its manifesto provides that it is for people who will no longer accept the lies society tells itself. That said, it's not a capitulation. The group believes in continuing to fight the good fight, to push back where and when possible, but freed of any illusions that we're going to save the world. That informs much of what I write on this blog.

See ya on the other side.