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Researchers find link between drug-resistant bladder infections and poultry antibiotics

From the Food and Environment Reporting Network:

Bladder infections affect 60 percent of all American women, with a rising number resistant to antibiotic treatment. Now researchers looking into the cause of the mysterious drug resistance have found evidence that it’s coming from poultry treated with antibiotics, according to a joint investigation by the Food & Environment Reporting Network and ABC News.

Emphasis added. Jaw dropped.

The investigation, which aired on ABC’s Good Morning America, highlights how the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture has made it more difficult to treat these painful, long lasting, and recurring infections because one course of antibiotics no longer works. The cost of treating the disease is estimated at $1 billion annually.

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Raw deal: Maine residents’ fight for unregulated food draws crackdown

Farmer Dan Brown has been sued by the Maine Dept. of Agriculture for selling raw milk, despite the passage of a food sovereignty ordinance in his town.

New England town meetings typically include dozens and dozens of proposals for citizens to vote up or down, on quickly forgotten matters like new stop lights and bridge repairs.

But this year, things have been different. The residents in eight small Maine towns have all voted to declare "food sovereignty" -- and they won't be forgetting the issue any time soon. In other words, they've passed ordinances that explicitly allow local farmers and ranchers to sell their food — meat, eggs, unpasteurized milk, honey, veggies — directly to consumers within town borders, without state or federal licenses, permits, or regulations.

Towns in Massachusetts, Vermont, and California have all replicated these experiments, which in Vermont have all been based on a single template [PDF]. And while the mainstream media is referring to the ordinances as “symbolic,” it is yet to be seen how the courts will rule.

Read more: Food, Food Safety

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Leaked letters suggest Maryland’s governor is henpecked by the chicken industry

Photo by the Chesapeake Bay Program.

The Gulf of Mexico dead zone seems to get all the attention. Yes, the low-oxygen area that forms every year in the waters surrounding the Mississippi Delta is the largest dead zone -- currently around the size of Massachusetts -- but it’s not the only one in U.S. waters.

The Chesapeake Bay has a dead zone, too. In fact, it covered a third of the Chesapeake last year and continues to grow. And last month, the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science gave the Bay a D+ in its annual “health report card.”

About a year and a half ago, in response to the crisis, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in to put the states that surround the Chesapeake on a “pollution diet,” meaning the state has to keep its “Total Maximum Daily Load” -- whether from agricultural, municipal, or private landowners -- down to a minimum.

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Ew! Eyeless shrimp and deformed fish now routinely caught in the Gulf

Ok, this is gross. The shrimp coming out of the Gulf of Mexico two years after the BP spill have some seriously nasty stuff wrong with them. They are lacking in eyes. Their gills are full of junked up black stuff. (Not normal!) They have lesions. And yet they are making their way into grocery stores! The picture above is of a shrimp that was being sold to be eaten for dinner.

Now, I don't personally spend a lot of time looking at the insides of raw shrimp and fish and crabs. But Al Jazeera did an in-depth report on the situation, in which a slew of people who've worked in the fishing business for years say that they've never seen anything like these deformed creatures:

Read more: Food Safety, Oil, Pollution

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Scientists use glow-in-the-dark fish to track hormone-disrupting chemicals

Photo by University of Exeter.

Imagine if your body could tell you where and when a certain chemical is impacting your health. Scientists at the University of Exeter have done just that -- with green-glowing zebrafish, that is.

Researchers genetically engineered young zebrafish to produce a fluorescent glow in the presence of hormone-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol-A. By exposing fish to endocrine disruptors and observing when individual body parts light up, researchers can learn exactly how and at what concentrations these chemicals impact various organs and tissues. They can then make certain inferences on how endocrine disruptors impact human health.

For instance, observing the glowing fish confirmed previous findings, such as a link between bisphenol A and heart problems.

"We do see in this fish that the heart glows particularly in response to bisphenol A," Charles Tyler, the study's leader, said. "So we can target the heart and try to look at the mechanics of what is happening."

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Deadly tree disease could wipe out California’s citrus industry

Photo by Yellow. Cat.

Hide ya’ lemons, hide ya’ limes -- a deadly disease is coming for California’s citrus trees.

State ag experts recently found a tree that tested positive for Huanglongbing--and yes, it is way more serious than its sing-songy name suggests. The bacteria, also known as citrus greening or yellow dragon disease, attacks a trees’ vascular system and kills them off within a few years. The disease has no known cure, and it's had disastrous impacts on citrus trees in China, Brazil, and Florida.

For now scientists have only spotted the infection in a lonely tree, but the situation is understandably sending state officials into full-blown panic mode. California produces 80 percent of America’s citrus fruits and the majority of its fresh-market oranges. Killing citrus trees would wipe out a $2 billion industry in the state.

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Paper asks: Does high-fructose corn syrup contribute to a rise in autism?

Photo by Robert Bradley.

I know what you’re thinking: “Tom, it’s been ages since you wrote about high-fructose corn syrup.” And you’re right! It has. But as I’m feeling petulantly defiant, I think it’s time to take another look at America’s favorite sweetener. You see, while the HFCS industry still claims there’s no difference between how the body handles HFCS and sugar, a new study has come out suggesting just the opposite. And in a very big way.

The blaring headline version of the new study’s conclusion would read: “High-Fructose Corn Syrup Causes Autism.”

And while that may be a bit of an overstatement, it’s not off by much. In a provocative new peer-reviewed study published in Clinical Epigenetics, researchers led by a former FDA toxicologist purport to have found a very real link between HFCS consumption and autism.

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Scientists discover ancient antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Okay, nobody panic, but scientists have found a stash of bacteria that have never had contact with humans, but are resistant to antibiotics anyway. If this happened in a movie, this would probably end with everyone becoming dead. But I'm sure it's fine!

Read more: Food Safety

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Where ‘the whole animal’ meets pink slime

Photo by Teresia.

A recent New York Times op-ed declared that sustainable meat is a “myth.” Whether pastured, small-scale, large-scale, rotationally grazed, locavore, industrialized, etc., all meat is essentially the same and none of it is sustainable. So says author James McWilliams who points, as many have, to the climate impact of livestock production.

I take issue with some of McWilliams’ figures (for example, here’s the Environmental Working Group’s explanation of pastured meat's reduced climate footprint), but by and large I agree! Meat production at its current scale -- and the scale it’s projected to reach as the developing world increases its consumption -- is not sustainable. Period.

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Four important food and farm stories you may have missed

1.piggy FDA and antibiotics: If you’re confused, it’s not your fault

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the courts have recently told the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) it has to regulate several commonly used antibiotics if they can’t be proven safe. The ruling was the result of a long-running lawsuit by a group of environmental and public health advocates lead by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and gave many in the food movement a reason to feel cautiously optimistic.

Meanwhile, the FDA has been moving at a glacial pace on its expressed intention to put a voluntary control on antibiotics in place. And this week it finally put the rubber to the road, in the form of a major press effort and the release of a new set of guidelines for cooperating companies. (The two events are supposedly unrelated, but it’s not hard to see how FDA may want to distract attention away from a court order that requires it to play the bad cop, if it can play up and formalize its role as good cop.)

The agency’s press release is even called "FDA takes steps to protect public health," and in it the agency promises to “promote the judicious use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals” [emphasis mine]. FDA also comes right out and acknowledges that “antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria or other microbes develop the ability to resist the effects of a drug. Once this occurs, a drug may no longer be as effective in treating various illnesses or infections.” In other words, the agency is talking. Whether it'll do any walking to go along with it is yet to be seen.