A Fabulous Radio Interview on Food Issues

Cross-posted from Progressive Blue with a similar diary at La Vita Locavore.

Have you ever listened to the Leonard Lopate Show? Yesterday I was thinking that a few minutes was almost as informative for me as my long weekend spent at Slow Food Nation. But that probably had a lot to do with Leonard Lopate. He is like the Bill Moyers of NYC radio and he is great with food issues. I think  his number one guest is Michael Pollan and the number two slot probably belongs to Eric Schlosser.

Leonard’s guest yesterday was David Kirby who two days ago posted a very informative 6 Baby Steps Toward a More Sustainable Animal Diet and his book Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment has been getting a lot of attention.

If you can find the time, here is the interview page (where you can leave comments) and here is the audio;

In the interview Mr. Kirby sums up industrial farming and the broken American food system with a vivid description of the conditions he has witnessed as an investigative reporter. One of the hazards of his work being manure flu. He points to the contamination caused to our air, land, water, and ourselves by factory farms. Did you know that MRSA kills more Americans today than AIDS?

They discuss the many people who are fighting to restore sustainable farming practices and some of the reasons our elected officials seem so powerless, those powerful business interests behind large-scale factory farms. But he is far from pessimistic, some stalls and some signs of progress while stressing that we need to do more than vote with our forks. We need to stay on top of elected officials with constant letter.

In the last exchange about Blanche Lincoln’s bill that is intended to put manure spills on par with rainfall for corporate farms, Leonard Lopate pointed out “And She’s a Democrat!” David Kirby sarcastic reply “Barely.” If David Kirby writes as well as he speaks, I’ve got to read “Animal Factory.”  


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    • Eddie C on March 5, 2010 at 15:04

    Bacteria typically become resistant to antibiotics through exposure to them. The finger of blame for the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria — a spread that apparently began in the early 1990s — is generally pointed at human overuse of the drugs, especially in hospitals, where until recently MRSA was most often seen and transmitted. But while MRSA may be most easily transmitted in a hospital, that doesn’t mean the bug developed its resistance there. When it comes to the overuse of antibiotics, even the most profligate of hospitals can’t touch the sheer amount thrown around down on the farm.

    Today, by most estimates, farming consumes many more antibiotics than human medicine does. No one, including government agencies, has definitive numbers, but in 2001, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a now widely accepted estimate suggesting that up to 84 percent of all antimicrobials (a slightly broader category that includes antibiotics) were being used in agriculture. Studies conducted in Europe — and one just released in Canada, the leading exporter of pork to the United States — suggest that farm animals are at the very least reservoirs for heretofore-unseen strains and that the animals are passing those strains on to their human caretakers. Here in the United States, however, scientists have yet to study the possibility that agriculture may be playing a role in the changing nature of MRSA — even though the way we raise the food we eat may be making us sick.

    In the interview there is a discussion about this increasing and the part the food industry is playing in a possible upcoming superflu. There are some real horror stories about going on the way we’ve been going.

    • Eddie C on March 5, 2010 at 15:05

    The most efficient use of a few minutes that I can recall, I called WNYC and upgraded to sustaining member. Told them it was because of Leonard Lopate work towards sustainable farming and his coverage of food issues. I got a free year of The New Yorker out of the gesture that will cost me a buck a day.

    Sadly I think that Leonard Lopate is only on the radio airwaves in New York and Boston but he can be found everywhere on the internet.  

    • Eddie C on March 5, 2010 at 22:23

    The interview

    is worth listening to more than once.

    Eddie, your manure flu link is a dramatic testament to the power of political corruption. I can think of no reason except greed to condone poisonous point source air pollution. The technological control has been available for decades. We called it a thermal oxidizer, to avoid scaring the neighbors by using the word “incinerator.” No reason not to require control just because the point source is “agriculture.” For a CAFO barn, the cost per pound of meat would be miniscule. Merely installing afterburners wouldn’t be sufficient, of course: removal efficiencies can be 90-99%, but they need to be operated correctly. Regulators should impose emission requirements and impose stiff penalties if requirements are not met.

    From the executive summary of a report published in 2000:



    Confined Livestock Air Quality Committee of the USDA Agricultural Air Quality Task Force

    To maintain a safe and economical food supply, producers must have sufficient lead-time, cost-effective technologies, and resources to adjust to changing public agendas that include air quality protection.  To continue this predominance in agricultural production, the USDA Agricultural Air Quality Task Force (AAQTF) established by Congress in the 1996 Farm Bill, recommends an additional $65 million be annually appropriated for agricultural air quality issues.  Of this amount, $12.8 million should be specifically targeted for CAFO research needs.

    These problems have been recognized for a long time, but nothing is being done.

    The article is about a situation in Indiana, but here’s some interesting work by a couple of Iowans, Bob Watson and Larry Stone. From Civilized and Inclusive: Policies and Politics for Humans

    Appendix A

    4. Even though Iowa DNR says they can’t regulate confinements and open feed lots like they do other entities with fecal waste and poison gasses, that statement is not true. Because of a snafu by the State of Iowa when originally applying for EPA’s NPDES Permit program in the 1970’s, Iowa wasn’t enrolled in the program and had to create their own “Permit to Operate” laws, which the EPA accepted as a mirror program. Those rules, Iowa Administrative Code 567.64.3, included not only point source wastewater treatment plants, but also included CAFO’s. Under 64.3(1)h.(2) those CAFO’s cannot be excluded from regulation. Those rules are still on the books and could be used immediately to regulate CAFO’s (by a request to do so of the County to the DNR Director) as wastewater facilities thusly (but not limited to):

    a: require monitoring wells around storage lagoons, concrete storage tanks, and fields being used for application.

    b. testing requirements of waste for, but not limited to, nitrogen, phosphorus, E. coli, antibiotics, hormones, and other pollutants.

    c. set rules for manure storage capacity.

    d. set minimums for the depth to groundwater under storage facilities.

    e. require tests of tile lines and adjacent streams where manure is applied.

    f. impose requirements to prevent waste from running off fields.

    (Iowa Code 2003: Section 455E.5 Groundwater protection policies. #3 All persons in the state have the right to have their lawful use of groundwater unimpaired by the activities of any person which render the water unsafe or unpotable. #4 All persons in the state have the duty to conduct their activities so as to prevent the release of contaminants into groundwater.)

    Etc. The key is, do regulators have the guts and gumption?

    Looking for resources: a report published in 2007, apparently online in 2006

    Environmental Health Impacts of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: Anticipating Hazards – Searching for Solutions

    Bad stuff going on.  

    • Eddie C on March 6, 2010 at 00:09

    That’s cool.

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