Though a little more than half of the state’s voters defeated Initiative 522 in last fall’s general election, the movement against genetically modified ingredients continues.
While I-522 was specifically about food labeling for retail items containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), its failure at the polls could be attributed to inconsistencies in how it would have been applied to various food products.
Still, an Elway Poll taken prior to the November election showed that two out of three voters supported the measure, so local medical professionals and public health and environmental advocates are taking the crusade one step further. They’re now pushing for stronger regulations of non-therapeutic antibiotics in the state’s animal agriculture.
Twenty-five pharmaceutical companies are voluntarily phasing out non-therapeutic antibiotic use for animals, as recently announced by the Food and Drug Administration.
Locally, the University of Washington Medical Center is expected to take a stand against such use in Washington state’s food supply. It will ensure that all pork and poultry products it serves are antibiotic-free (the policy would extend to dairy and beef later, presumably when suitable food sources are found).
And the Seattle City Council was to vote on Monday, April 7, on a resolution supporting federal legislation banning antibiotic misuse on farms.
Anti-GMO advocates say about 30 million pounds of antibiotics are sold each year in this country for livestock — 80 percent of antibiotic use in the United States — solely for the purpose of promoting animal growth in overcrowded and likely unsanitary living conditions. This has led to 2 million cases of antibiotic-resistant infections each year from people consuming meat that was fed antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; at least 23,000 people have died from such infections annually.
Just like guns used inappropriately can maim and even kill unsuspecting victims, antibiotics used for the unintended purpose of promoting animal growth can equally impact the people who eat those animals.
The USDA may have approved foods made with genetic technology for human consumption, but there is still nothing more wholesome and simple than eating a fresh piece of fruit.
Farmers have been growing fruit and vegetables and raising livestock without the use of modern antibiotics for centuries. Ironically, the number of farms has diminished from their heyday as livestock production has increased its use of antibiotics. If farmers were to revert to the older, better husbandry practices, not only would their crops and animals be healthier, so would their consumers — and the farming economy.