Friday, March 13, 2015

Antibiotic Resistance and a Biology Textbook

I don’t mind a debate. In fact, I somewhat enjoy a good debate at times, but only if the people I am having a discussion or a debate with play fair and stick to the truth. We all have different opinions and our right to those different opinions are what makes this country great. However, lately it seems that you don’t have to have proof, the truth or sound science on your side and you don’t have to have an honest even debate. That is a problem, especially when we are talking about food.
Bad information about food is right around every corner. Today I was at a restaurant when I noticed the sign telling about their upcoming happy hour. It proudly proclaimed that all of their beers were gluten free. Really, you are worried about your beer being gluten free? We see a lot of marketing ploys when it comes to food that are based on bad science, misinformation or hysteria.
I guess I have come to expect this type of fear mongering when it comes to the internet, daytime TV or social media. It still makes my blood boil and I will do everything in my power to combat it, but I have come to expect it. However, I am continually amazed at where bad science or misinformation about food and the way we raise food shows up.
This past week my daughter came home from school and said she had something to show me. She then proceeded to open up her biology text book and read an excerpt for me. It was a section about antibiotics and their use or misuse. To make sure that you don’t think I am misquoting the book I will give you the exact quote.
“Misuse: A large portion of the antibiotics distributed in the United States are fed to livestock. Antibiotics are often misused in agriculture to increase the animal’s rate of growth. However, when antibiotics are added to the food of healthy animals, bacteria within the food- including pathogens- can become resistant to multiple antibiotics.”
OK, so they kind of have one thing right. Most of the antibiotics in the world are used in the production of livestock. That is a fact but it has nothing to do with any of the antibiotic resistance we are seeing in humans. Antibiotics fed to animals are targeted to be taken out of our hands by government regulation. This ban is not based on any science but because of suspicion generated by special interest groups. There is no credible, scientific evidence of livestock feed additives causing antibiotic “super-bugs” in humans, none. But that is not the issue (at least for today).
The part I am taking the most issue with is the statement that antibiotics are often “misused” in livestock feed. We all know that is a bold faced lie (yes, I do feel that strongly). The absolute greatest majority of farmers and ranchers feeding antibiotics to their livestock carefully follow the directions including dosage and withdrawal times. Therefore, the antibiotic feed additives are not misused.
Secondly, because they are used in the proper way, they do not cause resistance. Again, there is no credible evidence that our feeding antibiotics to livestock and the meat going into the food chain have anything to do with antibiotic resistance in humans. None, nada, zip, zero, it just doesn’t happen. This is the type of hysteria and bad information that will result in a very valuable tool being taken away from farmers and rancher.
What makes it even worse is that this is being printed in a high school biology text book. That is inexcusable. Most of the students that take this class (and even many of the teachers) do not have the solid foundation in agriculture to understand how misleading that paragraph is. Most take any and all statements in textbooks to be proven facts and this statement could not be farther from a proven fact.
That is why it is so important for us to reach out to everyone in our community and show them that we do care about food safety and that we do have sound science behind the practices we implement on our farms and ranches. I am so proud of my daughter for understanding how wrong this statement was and for being willing to stand up and tell the truth.
Make no bones about it, there is a concerted effort to take antibiotics away from farmers and ranchers. This will make it more difficult for us to produce the food needed by a growing world population that is true. It also will allow for the needless suffering of many animals to ailments that could easily be prevented or cured with the necessary antibiotics. Antibiotics are used properly, safe and absolutely necessary for agriculture. That is the truth that should be written in every biology text book.

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