13 March 2012

An Open Letter to Senator Michael Bennet

Hi Michael,
I am very pleased to learn that you are on the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and are currently considering the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PATMA S1211). I hope you consider passing this bill for numerous reasons, as a scientist, a consumer, and a citizen.

First, I am a graduate student at the University of Colorado in Boulder in the field of Biochemistry. In fact, in particular, I study the molecular components of pathogenic bacteria, like E. coli and Salmonella, that make us sick, in hopes that in learning more about them, we can create new drugs against them. One of the major reasons for this work is the growing anti-biotic resistance in the civilized world, and it is also a fact that this low-level use of antibiotics in factory farming is greatly contributing to this growing problem. The levels of antibiotic are not enough to kill all the bacteria present, and the constant exposure to the antibiotics causes resistance genes to arise. Any bacterium that comes in contact with these drugs can develop resistance genes, which can then be picked up by pathogenic bacteria. This is a particularly insidious problem. By restricting the use of antibiotics for only medical use, you can use a more potent dose for a limited amount of time, wiping out all bacteria that come in contact with the drug, and preventing resistance from arising. It is exactly like getting antibiotics for strep throat from your doctor, and why it is especially important that you complete the full course of antibiotics. Any bacterium that is left will have been exposed and has a higher chance of developing resistance.

As a consumer, I am concerned about the misuse of antibiotics in factory farming because it contributes to the mistreatment of animals. This low level of antibiotics allow farmers to keep the animals in close confines with each other, maximizing space use, but at the expense of what? These animals are treated as mere commodities in these situations and all respect between the farmer and his herd is destroyed. By halting the widespread use of antibiotics as a preventative application, farmers will not be able to crowd the animals as much, keeping them in more humane numbers in order to maintain health. Healthy animals create a better consumer product for consumption, as well, being of higher quality and nutritional value. Finally, the situation these animals are kept in can be likened to the confines of slave ships that brought Africans over to the New World, a deplorable circumstance that we now view as incredibly inhumane.

As a citizen, the threat of growing antibiotic resistance to the health of my loved ones and myself is very real. Pharmaceutical companies are not spending as much money creating new antibiotics. Pursing new antibiotics is not as lucrative because resistance is growing so rapidly. As a nation, we should be appalled by this misuse of antibiotics and should all be made aware of the ramifications. The profit that these factory farmers are making is not worth the health of our nations people.

If this practice is allowed to continue, perhaps Big Ag's profit should be put to developing new antibiotics instead of lining their own pockets. Even though the funding of my current research is somewhat dependent on the growing antibiotic resistance problem, it would be a great miracle if we could slow the pace of the problem. There are many other avenues in science to pursue, after all. I believe that this bill can and will help slow the rate of antibiotic resistance development and help create a better, more humane nation for our livestock and our people.

Michelle Turco

PS. This is the sister bill to HR 965. If any of your representatives are on the committees that are looking at these bills, please write them! You can check S1211 here and HR 965 here.

09 March 2012

Brie Truffé is Stupid

This is a stupid stupid cheese. Why does such a cheese exist? This cheese makes me angry, it is so delicious. I don't think you understand. I think it may be the best cheese I've ever had. When I retire, I want to travel around trying every single truffled brie made. And any other truffled cheese, for that matter. Unbelievable! And stupid. Stupid delicious.