‘Hugely Important Breakthrough for Human and Animal Health’ as EU Approves Antibiotic Restrictions for Livestock to Battle Superbugs

Common Dreams – by Jessica Corbett – Oct. 25th, 2018

The European Parliament on Thursday approved new rules for medicine use on healthy livestock in an effort to battle superbugs. (Image: Avicultura.com)

“Antibiotic resistance is a real sword of Damocles, threatening to send our health care system back to the Middle Ages.”

In a move celebrated by experts and activists who continue to raise alarm about the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance—fueled in part by rampant overuse of medicines in agriculture—the European Parliament on Thursday approved new rules for antibiotic use on healthy farm animals.

“This is a hugely important breakthrough for human and animal health and is by far the more serious attempt that Europe has ever made to achieve responsible antibiotic use in farming,” declaredCóilín Nunan, campaign manager of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, a coalition of EU-based medical, health, agricultural, environmental, consumer, and animal welfare groups.

About 73 percent of the world’s medicines are currently used on livestock, Nunan noted, and “farming accounts for about two thirds of all antibiotic use in Europe, so if the legislation is implemented correctly, we should be seeing very large reductions in use in years to come.”

The “long-awaited” law, which is set to take effect in 2022, will limit preventative use of antibiotics on groups of animals; empower European regulators to designate certain medicines for human use only; impose restrictions on imports; and encourage new research and protections for new drugs.

SOURCE

World Food Day: Must-Watch Documentaries

Aljazeera – 

FoodHuman RightsPoverty & DevelopmentAgricultureGhana

Every day, one in nine people around the world go hungry. That’s more than 820 million people who do not have enough food to support a healthy, productive lifestyle – despite the fact that the world produces enough food to feed every single one of us.

On October 16, 1945, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) was established. The organisation’s logo is a blade of wheat and its Latin motto, “fiat panis”, translates to “let there be bread”; an apt representation of the work the FAO has undertaken since its inception, with the lead focus of eliminating world hunger.

For almost four decades, October 16 has been celebrated to raise awareness of the FAO’s main working areas, including building sustainable agriculture and fishery industries, eliminating poverty, implementing inclusive agriculture foundations and the aforementioned goal of reducing, and eventually abolishing malnutrition, food insecurity and hunger.

To mark World Food Day, Al Jazeera looks back at some of our most memorable food-related documentaries, from the celebration of the intrinsically-linked relationship between food and culture to the problems with inflation on the most basic of foodstuffs and the politics of food in the heart of conflict zones.

A Taste of Conflict: The Politics of Food in Jerusalem

South Korea: Kimchi Crazy

Hungry for Change: New York’s Food Insecurity Crisis

India: The Republic of Hunger

Ghana: Food for Thought

Egypt: On the Breadline

Continue reading World Food Day: Must-Watch Documentaries

From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture

Dissident Voice – by Colin Todhunter / October 15th, 2018

Food and environment campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason has just produced the report ‘Shockingly high levels of weedkiller found in popular breakfast cereals marketed for British children’. In this 68-page document, she draws from new research in the UK that mirrors findings from the US about the dangerous levels of glyphosate found in food, especially products aimed at children (glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weedicide Roundup). Readers can access this report here (which contains all relevant references).

Mason begins by reporting on research that significant levels of weedkiller were found in 43 out of 45 popular breakfast cereals marketed to US children. Glyphosate was detected in an array of popular breakfast cereals, oats and snack bars.

Tests revealed glyphosate was present in all but two of the 45 oat-derived products that were sampled by the Environmental Working Group, a public health organisation. Nearly three in four of the products exceeded what the EWG classes safe for children to consume. Products with some of the highest levels of glyphosate include granola, oats and snack bars made by leading industry names Quaker, Kellogg’s and General Mills, which makes Cheerios.

The global food regime degrades public health and the environment, and it has narrowed the range of crops grown, resulting in increasingly monolithic, nutrient-deficient diets. Yet the powerful industry lobby calls for more deregulation and more techno-fixes like GMOs to ‘feed the world’. This is in spite of the fact that hunger and malnutrition are political: these phenomena are in large part the outcome of a global capitalist food regime that, with help from IMF/World Bank geopolitical lending strategies and WTO rules, has undermined food security for vast sections of the global population by creating a system that by its very nature drives inequality, injustice and creates food deficit areas.

Read on…

Source

A fishy return on public investment: The policy collision over genetically modified salmon

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

Canadians are the first in the world to eat a genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) fish, thanks in part to over $8 million in federal government funding behind its development. The government is set to receive 10% royalties from sales relating to the GM salmon research, as part of a $2.8 million funding agreement in 2009 between the GM fish company AquaBounty and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. 38% of Canadians say they would “definitely not eat” if given the choice, and so the product’s success, arguably, depends on the government maintaining its position against mandatory labelling of GM foods. Published in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives magazine Monitor, Sept/Oct 2018.

SOURCE

Glyphosate and Dicamba Herbicides Increase Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria

Oct 13 2018 –  by Sustainable Pulse

A new study has found that some of the world’s most widely used herbicides, Roundup (glyphosate) and Kamba (dicamba), increase the rate of antibiotic resistance development in bacteria by a factor of up to 100,000 times faster than occurs without the herbicide.

Both herbicides are used on GM crops engineered to tolerate them.

The new study adds to a growing body of evidence that herbicides used on a mass industrial scale, but not intended to be antibiotics, can have profound effects on bacteria, with potentially negative implications for medicine’s ability to treat infectious diseases caused by bacteria. University of Canterbury (New Zealand) Professor Jack Heinemann, one of the study’s authors, said, “The combination of chemicals to which bacteria are exposed in the modern environment should be addressed alongside antibiotic use if we are to preserve antibiotics in the long-term.”

An important finding of the new study was that even in cases where the herbicides increase the toxicity of antibiotics they also significantly increased the rate of antibiotic resistance, which the authors say could be contributing to the greater use of antibiotics in both agriculture and medicine.

Previously these researchers found that exposures to the herbicide products Roundup, Kamba and 2,4-D or the active ingredients alone most often increased resistance, but sometimes increased the susceptibility of potential human pathogens such as Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli, depending on the antibiotic.

Prof Heinemann said, “We are inclined to think that when a drug or other chemical makes antibiotics more potent, that should be a good thing. But it also makes the antibiotic more effective at promoting resistance when the antibiotic is at lower concentrations, as we more often find in the environment. Such combinations can be like trying to put out the raging fire of antibiotic resistance with gasoline.”

The authors concluded that neither reducing the use of antibiotics nor the discovery of new ones may be sufficient strategies to avoid the post-antibiotic era. This is because bacteria may be exposed to other non-antibiotic chemicals that predispose them to evolve resistance to antibiotics more quickly. Herbicides are examples of some of the most common non-antibiotic chemicals in frequent global use. Thus antibiotic resistance may increase even if total antibiotic use is reduced, and new ones are invented, unless other environmental exposures are also controlled.

The new paper, “Agrichemicals and antibiotics in combination increase antibiotic resistance evolution” is published online in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ on October 12 and can be downloaded without charge from here.

SOURCE

Scientists Sound Alarm Over Mysterious Gov’t Plan to Spread Viruses Using Bugs

A team of scientists sound the alarm in a new Science Policy Forum report about a mysterious US government program that is developing genetically modified viruses that would be dispersed into the environment using insects. The virus-infected or ‘Frankenstein’ insects are being developed as countermeasures against potential natural and engineered threats to the US food supply. The program is operated by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) could be viewed as an attempt to develop an entirely new class of bioweapons that would prompt other nations to seek similar weapons, they cautioned.

The researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology and the University of Freiburg both in Germany, and the University of Montpellier in France suggest DARPA’s program could likely breach the Biological Weapons Convention, the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons.

Dubbed the “Insect Allies” program, DARPA began modifying insects in 2017, with the plan to produce more resilient crops to help farmers deal with climate change, drought, frost, floods, salinity, and disease, said Gizmodo. The technology at the center of the program is an entirely new method of genetically modifying crops. Instead of modifying seeds in a lab, farmers would send swarms of insects into their crops, where the genetically modified bugs would infect plants with a virus that passes along the new resilience genes, a process known as horizontal genetic alteration. Hence the technology’s name—Horizontal Environmental Genetic Alteration Agents (HEGAA).

For HEGAA to work, Gizmodo explains that DARPA labs develop a virus that is inserted into the chromosome of a target organism. Scientists would use leafhoppers, whiteflies, and aphids genetically altered in the lab using CRISPR, or a variant of a gene-editing system, to carry the virus into crops. Each plant would then be infected by the insect, triggering the intended effects of protecting crops from natural and or human-made threats.

However, the lead author of the report, Richard Guy Reeves from the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, says DARPA’s Insect Allies program is disturbing and an example of dual-use research in which the US government, in addition to aiding farmers’ crops, is also developing a biological weapon.

Read on…

SOURCE