FDA Says ‘No’ to Drugged Up Livestock

Cows, chickens, and pigs in America are on lots of drugs — and even account for 80 percent of the country’s antibiotic consumption, Time reports.

But now, Food and Drug Administration officials have called on the ag industry to limit antibiotic use in livestock, as they think it might lead to the growth of deadly, drug-resistant bacteria: On January 4, the FDA banned farmers from using a class of these medicines in excess or for preventative reasons.

This particular group of antibiotics, cephalosporins, gets used frequently in humans to treat strep throat and bronchitis, Time notes.

The livestock industry commonly doses animals with antibiotics before they get sick, though they are not intended to prevent disease.

About 100,000 Americans die each year from infections related to drug-resistant bacteria, Time reports, and many fear that the situation will only worsen if animals routinely ingest antibiotics in their food and water.

This is not the first time the FDA has moved to enact such a rule.

In 2008, the administration tried establishing a similar regulation, but got too much flack from the ├╝ber-wealthy ag lobby.


Food Might Get Cheaper: Report

Foods from meat to millet might become more affordable this year, as farmers expect 2012 to bring plentiful crop yields, Bloomberg reports.

According to the news service, Standard & Poor’s has determined that eight top foodstuffs dropped significantly in price in 2011 — including cocoa, sugar, coffee, and soybeans — suggesting that the new year will bring the same decreases.

What this means: Food inflation — basically a fancy way of saying food price upswings — will probably slow, from a peak increase of 6 percent in 2011 to a more stable rate of 3 to 4 percent.

In the U.S., food costs will probably go up 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2012, Bloomberg reports — compared with 2011, when they ballooned between 3.25 and 3.75 percent.

Wheat prices have dipped, Bloomberg notes, bringing down the price of animal feed.

Because of this, economists also predict that livestock production will boom in 2012 and that the new glut of pork and beef on the market will make meat significantly cheaper.


UN Expert: Poor Shafted by WTO’s Food Policy

A top U.N. human rights expert got into a heated disagreement with the leader of the World Trade Organization on Friday, calling WTO-backed food policies “outdated” and a “lose-lose” for the world’s poor, the Associated Press reports.

Olivier De Schutter, the U.N.’s expert on the right to food, has just said that the WTO and its chief, Pascal Lamy, push for policies that screw over the world’s poor.

De Schutter says that the WTO advocates “trade-centric” policies that prevent the world’s impoverished from getting inexpensive, fresh food.

De Schutter says that these market-based approaches help agribusinesses profit in rich countries — and inflate the price of food for the world’s least-developed nations.

Between 1992 and 2008, De Schutter says, grocery bills in these countries ballooned 500 or 600 percent.

“This may look like food security on paper, but it is an approach that has failed spectacularly,” he writes in an open letter.

“The reality on the ground is that vulnerable populations are consigned to endemic hunger and poverty.”


New Polls Reveal Americans Aren’t Happy With Food System

Is Michael Pollan’s message sinking in? Are Americans finally tired of wolfing down government-subsidized Doritos (R.I.P. Arch West) and Big Macs? According to a new poll, the answer is an encouraging, although by no means overwhelming, yes. Recently, Mark Bittman pointed to two new polls that show that most of the country thinks that the current farm system is deeply flawed. The biggest complaint? Healthy food should be made cheaper.

The Environmental Working Group (EWP) has more details. The first poll, commissioned by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, showed that

  • 78 percent said making nutritious and healthy foods more affordable and more accessible should be a top priority in the next farm bill.
  • 52 percent said subsidies for crops such as corn and soybeans should top the list of programs to be cut, and 49 percent named crop insurance as the next target. Only 31 percent ranked conservation programs as top targets for cuts and just 23 percent wanted to chop food aid for low income Americans.

Take that, corn! Yes, people might be so poor that they are resorting to pig-stealing, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to eat healthy food. Another poll by the Ketchum Global Research Network revealed that

73 percent of consumers were satisfied with the availability of healthy foods and 66 percent are satisfied with food safety standards, but, 42 percent said the U.S. is “off on the wrong track in the way we produce food,” as against 39 percent who said it’s “heading in the right direction.”

OK, so it’s not like there are foodies with pitchforks collecting around Washington, but it’s a start. At least we know the Michael Pollans and Mark Bittmans of the world are slowly but surely making a difference.