I just heard the 8 a.m. SDPB news update. Interesting story of the morning: Erin Dreis, a graduate student at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, is researching the impact of livestock antibiotics on the environment. The basic science at work: big ag producers pump their livestock full of antibiotics. Those antibiotics eventually come back out in livestock waste. Livestock manure makes pretty good fertilizer, so we load up that waste and spread it on crops. Those antibiotics then get into plants, which we eat right alongside the antibiotic-charged meat. The antibiotics also get into the soil and destroy some of the natural bacteria the soil needs to, among other things, break down organic matter, fix nitrogen, and keep roots healthy. In the soil, in pants, in critters, in us—those antibiotics thus cycle through the entire ecosystem, fostering the evolution of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
Of course, we wouldn't need to dope up our livestock nearly so much if we raised them in healthy conditions, like open pastures. But when you crowd cows, pigs, and chickens into factory farms, you create a haven for disease... and ag dependence on antibiotics.
Pass the steak... but hold the penicillin... and the superbugs.
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