“Biofuel producers diversify away from crops” – St. Louis Business Journal, 14 June 2013

There are three key industries that rely on corn: biofuel/ethanol, pork and fructose corn syrup. However, erratic corn prices are forcing biofuel and ethanol producers to diversify, and most are moving to lower-cost non-food and food feedstocks, such as waste vegetable oil, tallow, algae, waste sugar, corn cobs, wood waste and swtichgrass.

This means that some production plants have underwent modifications in order to use these other feedstocks, and while that can be pricey, it has certainly paid off. The biofuel manufacturer FutureFuel has seen considerable gains since introducing alternative feedstocks: in 2011, the company’s biofuel revenue was $141.6 million; in 2012, the company increased this revenue by 35% to $191.4 million.

Last year’s drought yielded a low corn harvest and was detrimental to ethanol manufacturers, who had to downsize production for the first time in 16 years. This year’s harvest is looking to be better, but ethanol and biofuel companies might opt for cheaper feedstocks instead.

This shift is bound to have a significant impact on the corn industry, and we are likely to see an supply of corn that the pork and fructose corn syrup industries can’t cover. We will probably also see noticeably decreased prices, which will, in turn, put more pressure on corn farmers to increase prices to make up for last year and future losses.

This a a true example of classic economic theory at play, where “supply and demand”, along with substitution in competing markets, affects commodity prices in a somewhat unpredictable manner.

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 18, 2013

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“What We can Learn from Our Microbiome” – New York Times, 19 May 2013

While it’s common knowledge that we inherit our genes from our parents — a.k.a. our “first genome” — our “second genome” is rarely talked about. This ‘second genome’ is the trillions of microbes that are living in our bodies, everywhere from our skin, to tongue, to intestines. These microbes have an immense impact on our health, perhaps even greater than the genes from our parents. For instance, our microbes act as managers for our immune systems, and are partially responsible for ascertaining between the good and bad that enter our bodies. Interestingly enough, while we can’t do much to change what our parents gave us, we can have a great influence on our microbiota and microbiomes.

Scientists look at our microbriota as ecosystems: all our microbes interact with each other and their environment. Disorders within this ecosystem – such as too little diversity or an excessive amount of the “wrong” type of microbes — have the potential to cause obesity, chronic diseases and other infections. Scientists also believe that diet and environment have led to an increase in autoimmune diseases in the West.

The American Gut Project’s aim is to sequence as many American guts as possible, hoping to answer the question of what effects our microbiota — diet, antibiotics, pathogens, environment, cultural traditions? — and determine its “normal” state, if there even is one.

While scientists can’t really say what a “healthy” microbiome looks like, they can pinpoint certain traits and patterns that healthier microbiomes have. Possessing a diverse set of microbes is better and something Westerners don’t necessarily have, due to processed foods, environmental toxins and overuse of antibiotics. Certain ailments and diseases, such as allergies, asthma, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, plague the West more than less-industrialized areas. Your microbiota like unprocessed foods — less processed foods have a better chance of getting through the gastrointestinal tract and to the microbiota.

Children in the West are given an average of 10-20 antibiotic treatments before the age of 18; and this isn’t the only way antimicrobials are reaching the microbiota: antibiotics exist in meat, milk and surface water. Farmers feed antibiotics to their livestock so that they gain weight, and they often come in the form of medicated feed and water.

There are some things microbiologists suggest that can help with managing you and your children’s microbiomes:

  1. Don’t immediately jump to antibiotic treatments unless medically necessary.
  2. Cleanliness is not always next to godliness: take your children outside to play in the dirt more often.
  3. Cut back on processed foods.
  4. Eat more foods that contain probiotic bacteria: yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut are good starting points.
  5. While you should still wash produce that is likely to have pesticide residue, you should, for example, not wash your hands after petting your dog or cat.

In other words, the world will be a more sustainable place to live healthy and happy  lifestyles if people in developed nations adapt some of the habits of their ancestors, as practiced today in developing nations. We do not have to worry about people in developing nations adapting habits of developed nations — it is already happening rapidly!

See our other entries:
Antibiotics and the Meat We Eat
Study Shows Bacteria Moves From Animals to Humans
Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Surround Big Swine Farms in China & US

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 22, 2013

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“Hog Prices Slide as Demand Wanes” – Wall Street Journal, 20 March 2013

Hog prices have been steadily declining for the past four months, and are currently at a low. The reasons behind the decreasing demand for pork are interesting, mostly due to economic concerns.

US consumers have opted for inexpensive meats, like chicken, instead of pork; additionally, consumers are feeling certain economic pressures, such as rising prices at the pump.

Pork exports have already dropped 15% from last January, as the big meat buyers — China, Japan, Mexico and Russia — curtail purchases. In the last few years, the US has become fairly dependent on pork exports, as China is the world’s biggest pork consumer. However, as China’s population and demand for the meat grows, the country has stocked up on plenty of domestic supplies. Japan is the US’s biggest buyer, but has been experiencing a weak economy and currency, and doesn’t have the funds for pork exports. Russia has chosen to no longer buy pork from the US, since many US pork farms give their pigs medicated feed that generates leaner meat.

As domestic and international demand for pork decreases, US farmers are faced with larger inventories of pork. People begin to buy more pork during the warmer months, but the continued cold weather has delayed the spring and summer grilling season.

It is hard to say if this trend is cyclical or the economics are changing more structurally.

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 16, 2013

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“Food-Linked Infections Rose Last Year” – Wall Street Journal, 18 April 2013

Regardless of the transference of antibiotic-resistant genes between humans and animals, humans can still become sick with other contaminants found in livestock, animal byproducts, fruits and vegetables. The number of infections resulting from contaminated food rose by 3% in 2012, much of it due to Vibrio bacteria, which is found in raw oysters and undercooked shellfish. Food-borne illnesses resulting from Campylobacter bacteria — found in poultry, unpasteurized milk, surface water and mountain streams — also increased in 2012.

According to the CDC, 48 million people contract food-related infections per year. After seeing the surge in Vibrio infections, the CDC and FDA are now observing state-run Vibrio-control plans, as well as studying how climate and other environmental factors add to shellfish contamination.

Infections from Campylobacter are second to Salmonella poisoning, which didn’t increase from the CDC’s 2006-08 baseline. Campylobacter infections rose 14% in 2012, from the 2006-08 baseline.

CDC continues to safe guard public health and we applaud their service to our nation.

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 7, 2013

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“Antibiotics and the Meat We Eat” – New York Times, 27 March 2013

The agricultural industry’s use of antibiotics in their livestock has been a hot button topic the last few months, and only getting hotter. While the agriculture industry overwhelmingly denies that antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be transferred from livestock to humans, a British-Danish report from last month shows that bacteria does has the ability to move from animals to humans.

As we wrote in a previous post in November, “Farm Use of Antibiotics Defies Scrutiny“, responsibility for regulating antibiotic use is splintered among multiple agencies: the FDA, USDA and CDC. The FDA polices drugs, a role they carry out by overseeing the meat sold in our supermarkets, and by monitoring the existence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The FDA is trying to get a handle on the kinds of antibiotics that are being fed to livestock, but to no avail — livestock facilities are not legally required, and are vehemently opposed, to divulge details about what drugs are administered to which animals, and in what amounts.

It seems as this point that the situation could be a matter of life and death. In 2011, the agricultural industry bought almost 30 million pounds of antibiotics — 80% of the US’s 2011 antibiotic sales — for animal use, the biggest quantity ever purchased. The drugs are mostly given to animals at low dosages in order to encourage growth, and to contain any sicknesses they might contract by living in such close quarters of each other and their waste. However, feeding livestock low levels of antibiotics can actually breeds antibiotic-resistant diseases.

In 2008, Congress forced drug companies to report to the FDA the amount of antibiotics they sold to agricultural facilities. Again, no information was released on what drugs were given to which animals, in what amounts and why.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education. Labor and Pensions reauthorized the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) for 2013, requiring veterinary-drug companies to pay fees to the FDA as a way to financially support the agency. Two Democrats from the House have introduced new legislation that would give FDA the authority to amass more data from drug companies, as well as make food producers reveal how frequently they give low doses of antibiotics to animals, so as to spur growth and offset poor conditions.

We believe that in order to lower societal costs, and protect animals and humans, open and objective debate needs to continue among all stakeholders.

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 29, 2013

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FDA Sets Agenda for Veterinary Antimicrobial Meetings

The FDA and USDA are finally initializing dialogue on the subject of antimicrobial use in animals, through a series of five meetings that will take place across the country. The meetings will permit the public to weigh in on any challenges that veterinarians and producers will confront under new proposed regulations for veterinary management of antimicrobial use. The meetings will also center on other challenges, such as how producers can better locate veterinary services. The first meeting took place last week, April 9, in Bowling Green, KY, with the rest of the meetings spread out over April, May and June.

More information on this subject is also available from CattleNetwork.com

The FDA is working towards a goal of reasonable use of antimicrobials in medicated feed or drinking water for livestock, which will slowly allow for the elimination of antimicrobials in treating humans. This, in turn, will grant veterinarians more oversight of the existing therapeutic uses of antimicrobials.

Dates and locations of meetings:

  • April 23, 2013, in Olympia, Wash.
  • May 8, 2013, in Fort Collins, Colo.
  • May 21, 2013, in Pierre, S.D.
  • June 4, 2013, in College Station, Texas

You can find specific times and locations here.

We applaud the proactive actions taken by both FDA and USDA to engage the public and obtain a consensus from all the key stake holders — i.e. animal & human health service providers, the animal agriculture business sector, drug manufactures and consuming public — before enacting any legislation and regulations. This course of action is likely to yield databased decisions, striking a balance between food availability, safety, costs and jobs.

See our other entries related to antimicrobial use and antibiotics:
Study Shows Bacteria Moves From Animals to Humans
Conference to Examine Transformative Effect of Technology on Human-Animal Health
Antimicrobial Use and Resistance — NIAA Symposium White Paper Released
Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Surround Big Swine Farms in China & US
Farm Use of Antibiotics Defies Scrutiny

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 16, 2013

Fluid Management Systems

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“Drug Makers’ Push into Injectables Could Ease Shortages” – Wall Street Journal, 26 March 2013

Healthcare and drug companies are looking to join a market largely held by hospitals: injectable drugs, a $7 billion industry that often experiences shortages.

Drug mogul Becton Dickinson (BD), for example, plans on introducing 20-30 new injectable medicines to the US over the next few years, some of which have been in short supply. International drug companies are also seizing the market. Jordan-based Hikma Pharmaceuticals will launch 5-10 products in the next few years, also introducing a few of which have been scarce.

Companies like BD are attracted to this market because of the supply issue; and while sterilizing injectable drugs can prove difficult, the payoff is big: almost one billion vials  are sold each year. However, companies might have to wait for the long-run, as producing sterile medicines can be expensive with low profits. Many companies left the market due to the cost, leaving some drugs to just one manufacturer. In addition, manufacturing problems, supply constraints and government investigation of manufacturing plants have pushed many drug firms to abandon facilities or slow down production.

What resulted was an even larger shortage in 2011: 183, as opposed to 23 five years earlier. According to the FDA, the shortages fell to 84 in 2012, partly because Pfizer began manufacturing limited cancer injectables and some plants, which were previously shut down, reopened.

Yet, in order to turn a profit, many companies are looking into raising prices by 10%. This would greatly affect hospitals and their drug buyers, who will most likely fight the increases. In order to cut costs and availability, drug companies should consider  producing and selling drugs in multi-dose vials. Fluid Management Systems, Inc. has the technology to manage and monitor injectable drug inventories in multi-dose vials.

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 10, 2013

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“Study Shows Bacteria Moves From Animals to Humans” – New York Times, 27 March 2013

A new study by Britain and Denmark shows that bacteria does indeed move from animals to humans, a claim constantly denied by the agriculture and food industries.

The British and Danish researchers pooled their data from two small Danish farms, and through genetic sequencing, determined that a strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria was capable of being transmitted from animals to humans. The new report clearly shows the affect and risk that antibiotics have on both livestock and humans alike; this research is, without a doubt, the first of its kind to show a direct connection between animals and humans.

We’ve written and reported on this topic numerous times, as the link between human and animal health becomes a bigger global issue. This month, the American Humane Association is holding their first human-animal health conference in New York, which will focus on the “impact of innovation and technology and their crossover applications for human and animal health.” This is a step in the right direction for everyone involved in human and animal health sectors — consumers, scientists, veterinarians, doctors, hospitals, clinics, animal feeding operations, farmers, drug manufactures, and state, federal and international regulatory agencies  — to identify what can be done to objectively understated and improve the relationship between the human and animal health sectors.

See our previous blogs on this subject also:
Dead Pigs Worry Shanghai
Conference to Examine Transformative Effect of Innovation on Human-Animal Health
Antimicrobial Use and Resistance — NIAA Symposium White Paper Released
Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Surround Big Swine Farms in China & US
Farm Use of Antibiotics Defies Scrutiny

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 2, 2013

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“Dead Pigs Worry Shanghai” – Wall Street Journal, 12 March 2013

Earlier this month, 3,300 dead pigs were found dead in the Huangpu River, which supplies water to most of Shanghai’s 23 million residents. Chinese authorities have no idea how the pigs died.

Government officials investigated any impact the pigs would have on the river and other local waters, announcing that no health threat in the water existed. However, authorities found the pig-borne disease porcine circovirus in the river, which according to the US CDC, does not affect humans. China’s main meat is pork, which consists of almost half a billion pigs, and the country littered with swine farms that are rife with communicable diseases. An industry expert noted that the dead pigs might be indicative of a disease outbreak from a single farm.

China has had its fair share of pig illnesses. In 2007, around 50 million pigs died from an outbreak of high-fever blue ear disease; and this past January, 948 Chinese pigs had to be killed due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

Additionally, Chinese waterways have been exposed to much pollution. Again this past January, a chemical transporter spewed benzene into a Huangpu River tributary, which caused 20 people to be hospitalized. Earlier this year, Rivers in three northern provinces were also affected due to a chemical spill.

The chemical spills, as well as the mass deaths, are also calling Chinese food safety, environmental and air quality regulations into question. In 2011, China claimed the number one spot as the world’s biggest carbon dioxide polluter, up by 10 percent to contribute 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions to the world’s atmosphere. It is no wonder that China’s air quality caused its residents to become sick, and persuaded many to wear face masks.

In our view, the land where humans and animals live, the water we drink, and the air we breathe constitute environmental quality, and all eventually contribute towards human and animal health and safety. We live in an interconnected global ecosystem that we need to keep clean and safe. China — now the largest country in the world — continues to grow its economy in order to achieve a more western lifestyle, and population, which is currently at 1.3 billion people or one-seventh of the world’s population. China will have to strike a healthy balance between economic growth and environmental harmony that many western economies are already addressing.

See also:
Carbon Pollution up to 2 Million Pounds a Second
Conference to Examine Transformative Effect of Innovation on Human-Animal Health
Antimicrobial Use and Resistance — NIAA Symposium White Paper Released
Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Surround Big Swine Farms in China & US

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 28, 2013

Fluid Management Systems

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www.fluidmanagementsystem.com     subodh@fluidmanagementsystem.com

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“Conference to Examine Transformative Effect of Innovation and Technology on Human-Animal Health and Mutual Bond” – Market Watch, 20 March 2013

Several times over the past few months, we have written about the need for a cooperative relationship between the human and animal health sectors, and something is finally being done. The first national conference, “Transforming Human-Animal Health and the Human-Animal Bond through Technology and Innovation”, will be held by the American Humane Association next month in New York, concentrating on the “impact of innovation and technology and their crossover applications for human and animal health.” Specifically, America’s leaders in science, medicine, philanthropy and business will discuss how research can be used to expedite advances in human and animal health, especially through new devices and technology.

The conference will deliberate on “precision-driven, predictive, personalized, preventive, and participatory healthcare” for animals and humans through the utilization of mobile technology. Researchers from both human and animal health fields will come together to analyze evidence of health and disease in our 60,000+ vertebrates species, which will increase and solidify connections and discoveries between human and animal health. Though the agriculture industry vehemently denies any link between animal and human health, several researchers in China found that it is only a question of when diseases and antibiotic resistance will travel from animals to humans.

Technology will also be a great benefit to the conference: technology and crowd sourcing can aid scientists and researchers in identifying health trends and environmental risk factors, allowing for the development of new, personalized medicines for humans and animals alike.

This a very positive move to engage animal and human health practitioners, drug manufactures, regulators, consumer advocates and activists in listening, talking  and  collaborating. Aided by explosive technology growth worldwide, these much needed and overdue activities and dialogue will eventually lead to better health and environment for both animals and humans at minimal societal costs.

See also:
Antimicrobial Use and Resistance — NIAA Symposium White Paper Released
Farm Use of Antibiotics Defies Scrutiny

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 21, 2013

Fluid Management Systems

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