Mad cow, bird flu, pink slime? The bigger threat is antibiotics in our meat

The Guardian – Wednesday 18th September

Since the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, took an unequivocal stance on the risks of antibiotic resistance last spring, the dangers of antibiotic overuse in humans and animals has been much discussed. It’s discussed here again by writer Richard Schiffman, an environmental journalist. It’s well worth a read as he goes much deeper into the increasingly varied ways that antibiotics are damaging, and emphasises their vast over-use in agriculture. He discusses a new US report from the Centre for Disease Control, which details the complex impact of antibiotics on public health and reiterates again the dangers of resistance.

Did you know, for example, that in the US, antibiotics are primarily used in agriculture to increase growth in livestock, not to treat sick animals? He cites the shocking statistic that 80% of farm animals in the US are given antibiotics in their food or water. He also points out how damaging antibiotics are to the ‘microbiome’, the myriad bacterial world we all carry within us. They destroy good bacteria and also inhibit bacteria which helps us metabolise carbohydrates, so they could be contributing to the rise in obesity. The piece is fascinating, disturbing and distressing in equal measure, and his unequivocal point is that we must strongly regulate antibiotic use in humans and animals now.

Aid groups warn of growing hunger and disease as planet warns

The Independent – Monday 23rd September

Climate change is much in the news at the moment with the UN’s most recent report on its progress to be released this Friday. There has been much research done in the last five years, most of it providing further evidence of its swift and devastating effect on the ecosystems of the planet and the role that humanity has had in it.

In advance of the IPPC report, two aid agencies, Oxfam and Unicef, have released their own reports on climate change’s most significant impacts. Both focus on the generation of children who will grow up living with climate change. The reports warn of a significant rise in child malnutrition – as high as 20% of children, claims Oxfam. Disease, as has been reported elsewhere, will also increase with climate change, claiming many more lives of young children.

The reports remind us what our children are standing to  inherit, what future we have left them. As Welsh news commentator, Iolo William asked in his impassioned speech following the release of the State of Nature report, we need to think hard about what are we going to say when they come to us and ask us what we did to save this earth?

Food crisis fears prompt UN wake-up call to world leaders

The Guardian – Wednesday 18th September

The UN trade and development body, Unctad, has called for more support for small scale farming as a means to increase food security and increase agricultural resilience in the face of climate change. Its recent report, informed by a cadre of international experts, takes a strong stand on the need to shift agricultural practices away from the industrial model that currently dominates. It calls for less monocultural growing, a reduction in pesticide use and improved trade networks between small-scale producers and their local communities, as a matter of urgency. The recommendations are shaped by a concern about the impact of climate change on agricultural viability, particularly in poorer countries where there is more marginal land.

It’s really heartening to have a key trade and development body take a strong stand on the need for a more sustainable global food system. The report further recognises the failure of industrial agriculture to deliver food equality and its ‘mounting and unsustainable’ impact on the environment. It calls for a paradigm shift in our food system to one which rewards farmers for working with nature instead of against it, and recognises the problem of subsidising unsustainable farming practices. Here, here!

Everyone benefits from free school meals

The Telegraph -Wednesday 18th September

Jemima Lewis, partner of Henry Dimbleby, who with John Vincent drafted the new School Food Plan, has written a clever and engaging piece supporting the universal school meal that it recommends. In a riposte to Conservative politicians and columnists, she outlines just why it’s important for everyone to eat together. It’s a good read, reminding us what a social activity eating should be.

She also points out that the universal school meal ensures that all students have a good meal in their belly and this makes a world of difference, every parent will know, in concentration and behaviour. It’s no wonder that the schools which adopted the pilot saw academic achievement improve. It also ensures that students eat better, though there must be an equal commitment to health and quality in the food that’s served.

Up to two-fifths of fruit and veg crop is wasted because it is ‘ugly’, report finds

The Guardian – Thursday 19th September

A number of recent reports on waste are starting to convey the significant impact it has on our food security. Nearly six million people in the UK live in deep poverty, struggling on a daily basis to put food on the table. Meanwhile the rest of us waste 20% of our food, costing the average family £680 a year. We purchase and cook too much food and then just toss it out.

The supermarkets are also guilty of fostering our profligate ways by having ‘cosmetic’ standards for the fruit and vegetables that they sell. If it’s not a standard size and shape or has a blemish, they reject it, teaching us that we should never eat anything that’s less than perfect. Farmers lose vital income over this and food is often left to rot in the field. With two-fifths of fruit and veg wasted in this way, a 60% of available food is wasted in the UK. Honestly, we are spoiled!

There are initiatives afoot to address the issue of food waste in the UK. See this week’s piece on UK Gleaning Networks. Ensuring that edible, but perhaps imperfect food reaches the mouths that need it, is a big step towards tackling the food poverty that is rife and rising in the UK at the moment.

Welsh hill farmers to receive single farm payment early

The Guardian – Friday 20th September

The late snow last winter was devastating to hill farmers in Wales, killing large numbers of their livestock. In a bid of support for the economic impact of their losses, the Welsh Assembly Government is giving farmers in selected counties an advance on their single farm payment. Cash flow is a constant issue in farming, and unexpected losses such as the winter snow brought can destabilise even well established farms. The payment is due to arrive in October when farmers generally sell livestock, the income from which would be down because of livestock losses. It is felt that this advance will help with cash flow at a key juncture in annual income.

Photograph by Tim Caynes

Sign up to our Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest SFT views and news