Pork superbug

Pork superbug

Sadly this article doesn’t come as a surprise. How can animals living in CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) be healthy? CAFO meat might be *cheap* but on it’s real cost is very high.

Pork superbug documented
As evidence mounts of deadly bacteria from CAFO pigs, will the FDA and the USDA act?

Posted by Tom Philpott at 9:33 PM on 27 Jan 2009

Last June, Iowa State researcher Tara Smith delivered preliminary results of a study linking the deadly, antibiotic-resistant pathogen MRSA to pigs in concentrated animal feedlot operations. Despite mounting evidence of the link from Canada and Europe, U.S. public-health officials had never formally studied the issue, even though MRSA kills something close to 20,000 Americans every year — more than AIDS.

In a must-read blog post at the time, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s ace health reporter Andrew Schneider documents the craven inaction of the FDA and the USDA as this public-health menace gained force. (I weighed in here.) As Schneider wrote:

An effective way to say there isn’t a problem is never to look. That seems to be precisely what most U.S. government food-safety agencies are doing when it comes to determining whether the livestock in our food supply is contaminated with MRSA and if so, whether the often-fatal bacterium is being passed on to consumers who buy and consume that meat

Now Smith’s research has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Examining CAFOs scattered in Iowa and Illinois, Smith and her team found the MRSA strain in 49 percent of pigs and 45 percent of the workers who tend them. The sample size is small; more study must be done. Will the government undertake it?

A real reckoning with the MRSA-CAFO link could deliver a devastating blow to the meat industry. To keep animals alive while stuffed together by the thousands, standing in their own collected waste, it’s evidently necessary to dose them with lots of antibiotics. CAFO conditions destroy animal’s immune systems; antibiotics pick up the slack. Take them away, and the CAFO model might crumble.

That, presumably, is why the Bush agencies so studiously ignored the problem. Let’s hope the Obama FDA and USDA do better.

Update [2009-1-28 8:40:10 by Tom Philpott]:The Seattle PI’s indispensable Schneider reacts to the publication of Smith’s findings:

So I called some disease detectives and food safety specialists in agencies responsible for ensuring that our food supply is safe. You could almost hear them cringe over the phone. And, no, to the best of their knowledge, neither the FDA, USDA nor CDC had launched systematic testing of the U.S. meat supply for MRSA. One physician said that a study was being done on the MRSA strain (ST398) that Smith had found on the pigs but added, “I don’t think it has anything to do with meat.”

La Pwofitasyon: End Profitation

La Pwofitasyon: End Profitation

After 3 weeks of intense struggle in Guadeloupe —one of the French overseas “departments” in the Caribbean—during which one activist was shot dead and several others wounded, the LKP (Liyannaj Kont’ Pwofitasyon, or Collective Against Outrageous Exploitation) seems to have gotten the upper hand in their hard-fought battle. The  most talked about point was the demand for an immediate 200 euros salary raise, but the complete list had 120 demands. Among them one complaint that can be levelled across the board at the French Parisian centralized regime concerns the need for essential consideration of  Guadeloupe’s culture and language in the media. In fact, all regional cultures in France suffer from this neglect: my fellows Occitan activists  know this all too well.
Anyhow, our sisters and brothers in Guadeloupe (and let’s not forget  the people of Martinique, Reunion and Guyana  who are also fighting to end profitation) have been a serious inspiration.
In only a few weeks the people of Guadeloupe have managed to rally over 40 organizations, from various “greens” to several Trade Unions, to consumer rights activists & many others (including even a few right wingers!) under the LKP umbrella. Their leader is Elie Domota (on the video above it is him speaking in his native tongue). He is clearly serving the  common cause of the moment here, but he doesn’t hide his personal independantist leanings. I heard him give a very good interview on the radical French radio show Las-Bas Si J’y Suis. If you are francophone I highly recommend this truly radical radio show (also available on France Inter, you can download it as a podcast ) . The French government has good reasons to be freaked out, the atmosphere in metropolitan France is already pretty volatile as little president Sarkozy has only around 35% approval.
In solidarity, nine intellectuals from the region (Ernest Breleur, Patrick Chamoiseau, Serge Domi, Gérard Delver, Edouard Glissant, Guillaume Pigeard de Gurbert, Olivier Portecop, Olivier Pulvar, Jean-Claude William) published a manifesto entitled Manifeste pour les “produits” de haute nécessité”. This refreshing manifesto calls for human emancipation more than for revolution, and its concerns are sustainable change through responsibility and a desire  to make a poetics prevail over the prosaic. It is a true 21st century manifesto
and opens with a quote by Gilles Deleuze and another by  Aimé Cesaire from a letter he wrote to Maurice Thorez. I haven’t yet found an English translation — if you know of one, please let me know. This text should be taught in schools.
The struggle and the suffering of the people of this region kept under yoke one way or another, has been intense for centuries (none of this is talked about in French high schools!). I immensely enjoyed getting more familiar with their beautiful language and especially with the word : PWOFITASYON, PROFITATION.