a new reason to be nervous
It has been a wonderfully bright and dry spring and early summer, making it easy to plant, hoe and harvest without interruption. However, after less than two inches of rain in three months, as the longest day passes we've now had almost five inches in ten days - with more on the way. The parched ground gratefully sucked it down to recharge its depleted reserves, and for a while we were happy; now we’ve had enough. At our busiest time for planting, we’ve been unable to get on the ground for a week. As the days shorten, a week lost in July can push harvest dates back by a month in January, and with a yard full of increasingly leggy plants, our reason to be nervous has switched from drought to deluge.
antibiotics – here to make meat cheap or save lives?
A long overdue media debate has started over the reckless use of antibiotics in intensive farming. For years, pigs and poultry were routinely fed antibiotics to speed growth and attempt to keep disease at bay in overcrowded, stressful and unhealthy conditions. This practice is now banned but strangely antibiotic consumption has not fallen, suggesting farmers are finding ways around the regulations. Indeed, the use of three antibiotics rated as “critically important” in human medicine by the World Health Organisation has increased by up to four times in ten years. Such indiscriminate prophylactic use of antibiotics is forbidden under organic rules, which seek to promote health, rather than fight disease.
Why does it matter? Farm use of antibiotics is recognised as a major contributor to antibiotic resistance in bacteria such as MRSA and E. coli. Just because a handful of huge, intensive farms can get a little competitive advantage by routinely using them, just because supermarkets relentlessly drive their suppliers to reduce costs, just because pharmaceutical companies can make money selling the stuff, does not mean that we have to accept it. Are we really so enslaved to market forces that we throw away the biggest advance in medicine in the quest for marginally cheaper, ever blander, ever more cruelly produced food? The 25,000 people who die every year in the EU from antibiotic resistant bacterial infections from farm animals would probably have hoped for a little more sanity.
Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon