Wed, 16 July 2008
Pennsylvania has an opportunity to make sure that medicines keep working for us, by passing new legislation aimed at banning the use of antibiotics in healthy animals to promote growth and prevent disease. This overuse and unnecessary use of important antibiotics that are also used to treat dangerous bacterial infections in humans is helping to contribute to a widespread public health crisis as bacteria are becoming resistant to the very medicines we need to use to fight them.
In this podcast, PennFuture's Jan Jarrett speaks to environmental health expert Dr. Ellen Silbergeld, professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Silbergeld came to Pennsylvania earlier this summer to support the introduction of the Safe Food and Safe Families Act, House Bill 2195 (HB 2195), sponsored by Rep. Daylin Leach (D-149).
Dr. Silbergeld has been researching the area of the health and environmental impacts of industrial food production for over nine years. She describes how bacteria (pathogens) become resistant to antibiotics, and the linkages between many current livestock practices and this major public health threat. Many "conventional" livestock operations routinely administer antibiotics in animal feed, not to treat or prevent disease in the animals, but out of a belief (that Dr. Silbergeld's research has proven is incorrect) that these antibiotics promote growth in the animals and reduce costs to the farmers.
Humans can become exposed to antibiotics-resistant bacteria through the food supply, one reason why safe food-handling procedures is so important. But in places like southeastern and central Pennsylvania, where there are enormous numbers of concentrated animal feedlot operations, or factory farms, farmers and farm laborers as well as nearby community members are also at risk from these pathogens, since air-borne contamination and animal waste disposal problems occur.
What's worse is that we are now beginning to see problems in produce as well as in livestock. Dr. Silbergeld describes how application of contaminated livestock waste to farm fields ran off into irrigation water and subsequently contaminated lettuce, spinach, and green onions, for example.
New research from a number of countries is revealing that the very dangerous MRSA bacterium (commonly thought of as the hospital bug), that is responsible for very difficult-to-treat infections in humans, is being found in non-hospital settings, namely hog and dairy farms. People working at these contaminated facilities not only are at risk themselves, but can serve as human carriers of MRSA into their communities.
The bottom line is that it is becoming increasingly important to eliminate as many of the pathways as possible that exist toward creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That's why the Safe Food, Safe Families campaign is so important in Pennsylvania. Learn more on our campaign page, where you can also sign up to support the effort and receive updates and alerts about the campaign. You can also make a tax-deductible contribution to PennFuture to help us continue our successful work in promoting Responsible Farming.
Fri, 11 July 2008
(Note: This video takes about one minute to download.)
On July 10, 2008 the world learned that Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty would be leaving her position. Just before she was due to attend her agency's farewell party for her, McGinty agreed to sit down for an "exit interview."
In this podcast, hear PennFuture's Jan Jarrett's discussion with McGinty, in which she reflected on her nearly six year tenure heading up DEP. McGinty talks about her environmental philosophy -- that a good environment is vital to a good economy; what she considers her greatest achievements while in office; her bruising confirmation process, in which her public service in the White House was considered a detriment by some; her advice to those who come after; and her need for a vacation!
PennFuture has worked with McGinty on a number of issues from creating and nurturing the green energy market to giving Pennsylvanians access to the cleanest cars available to protecting babies from mercury pollution from outdated power plants to biofuels, environmental law enforcement and much more. She also made it possible for Al Gore to appear at PennFuture's 10th Anniversary Gala (where she joined in the dancing with her daughters -- see photo above).
In our press release, John Hanger, president and CEO of PennFuture praised McGinty.
“The saying goes, ‘The cock crows, but the hen delivers. And as the first woman ever appointed secretary of environmental protection, McGinty delivered – big time. Thanks to her insistence that environmental laws must be obeyed by enforcing those laws, and to her vision of bringing Pennsylvania into the dynamic green economy, Pennsylvania is a cleaner and brighter place to live, work and play. She has our undying thanks for her amazing public service, and we hope she will return to public service in the not too distant future.”