NIAA Animal Disease Traceability Forum White Paper Released

The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), an organization geared towards developing resolutions in different areas of the animal agriculture industry, recently released another White Paper, “Bringing Industry and Regulatory Leaders Together to Create Sensible Solutions”, a summary of the information offered at the Joint Strategy Forum on Animal Disease Traceability.

On December 20, 2012, the USDA introduced the Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate rule, which was put into effect in March 11, 2013, and is a major element of the US’s Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program, a system that identifies, tags and tracks livestock.

According to the USDA’s new rule, livestock transported between states, or interstate, must first be officially identified and carry an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) or other identification documentation, like owner-shipper statements or brand certificates. The law is pertinent to cattle, bison, poultry, sheep, goats, swine, captive cervids, and horses and other equine species that are transported interstate. Cattle less than 18 months old are not required to have documentation when crossing state lines, unless the animals are being used for shows, exhibits, rodeos or recreational events.

The USDA hopes to have all official ear tags with the official ear tag shield by March 11, 2014, and all official ear tags, that are on animals, to bear the shield.

The goal of the ADT program is to reduce the spread and impact of US animal and livestock diseases. If a disease outbreak occurs, then the program will assist the government in finding the source of the geographical location and diseased animal.

While it has been difficult ensuring that the ADT program is fully enacted, the USDA’s new ruling will enforce the tagging and tracking of animals and livestock.

Read our previous post on the NIAA’s Antimicrobial Use and Resistance White Paper.

September 9, 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

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NOAA: 2012 Hottest Year On Record For Lower 48 States

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirms that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the lower 48 states. Not only did the continental US experience an extremely severe drought, but it was also plagued by wildfires, hurricanes and storms. Tornado activity, however, was below average.

(source)

According to the NOAA and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), 2012′s average temperature was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.2 degrees above the 20th century’s average and 1.5 degrees above the average in 2011. This year’s average temperature was only one degree above the average temperature of 1998. Though a one degree increase seems marginal, it is actually the opposite: annual temperature records are usually only broken by tenths of a degree. Average temperatures in earlier years had remained within a range of 4 degrees; thus, making 2012′s jump fairly grim.

The year 2012 contained the fourth-warmest winter, warmest spring, second-warmest summer and above-average temperatures in fall. This past July, 61% of the country experienced drought conditions, and was the hottest month for the contiguous 48 US with an average temperature of 3.6°F, exceeding typical July temperatures.

The drought spanning 2011-12 has had a relentless impact on farms, and caused $35 million loss in crops alone. The drought was provoked by low snow cover and warm temperatures during winter 2011, and continuing exacerbation by record warmth during spring 2011. Though a warmer spring allowed for the growing season to begin early, soil moisture was exhausted sooner than expected. A March heatwave kicked the drought up a notch, expediting the growth en masse, particularly across the Plains and Midwest.

Perhaps the NOAA’s findings will push Congress and the White House to target greenhouse gas emissions, which surely have had a hand in the world’s ever-growing climate change. The White House is gearing towards putting a cap on greenhouse gas emissions for power plants, a major source of emissions. US emissions are still high — and though they have been reduced this year through the use of natural gases, renewable energy for electricity, and fuel-efficient cars — there’s still more to be done.

Dr. Das recently tweeted a letter to President Obama by the MIT Technology Review called, “Dear Mr. President: Time to Deal with Climate Change.” In this letter, the editors argue that addressing climate change must take top priority in the next four years.

However, the political reality in Obama’s second term is that lawmakers are divided and polarized in both Washington and state capitals, and other pressing issues will direct the nation’s attention, such as the economy — jobs, fiscal cliff, revenue, taxes, deficit and debt — immigration, and gun violence. Once again, the energy and environmental policies, and climate change debate will unfortunately take a backseat until the mid-term election in 2014. It’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen in 2015.

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

January 10, 2013

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“Food Waste: From Farm to Fork and Landfill” – CNN, 21 December 2012

CNN recently published a chart, mapping global food waste from origination to disposal. Gleaned from this chart are the great food losses amassed by both developed and developing countries, and the improper management and conservation of energy and food sources. Though the world is eager to discuss sustainability, green culture and climate change, it seems that food waste is an often untouched topic; yet, one cannot turn a blind eye to CNN’s statistics.

According to CNN, one-third of food produced is lost or wasted globally, a total of 1.3 billion tons per year. Also according to CNN’s chart, food waste in industrialized countries — 222 million tons — is almost equal to the net food production — 230 million tons — in sub-Saharan Africa. That statistic sheds light on how the world unknowingly wastes vast amounts of food because there are no proper management systems in place. Many of these countries don’t blink twice over food losses; developed countries, like the US, take its food access for granted, while developing countries have continually diminished access.

One would think that since the US is experiencing an economic recession and increased food inflation, it would try to gain control of any food loss; however, that is surely not the case. According to the original source for CNN’s chart, 10% of the US energy budget is used to transport food from farms to households, using 50% of US land and consuming 80% of US freshwater resources. However, 40% of food in the US remains uneaten, which is over 20 pounds of food per person, per month. Americans are unnecessarily wasting $165 billion per year, just on food and water losses alone.

Although we are a world obsessed with green culture and recycling, 3% of food waste is currently recycled. Additionally, 40% of landfill content comes from food waste — uneaten food is going straight into the garbage.

As discussed in previous entries – “Milk Price Fight Boils Over” and “Time Is Running Out to Pass a Farm Bill in 2012″  — US food prices may very well skyrocket due to our country’s indecisive lawmakers. If we are able to properly manage and conserve our food supply, and increase efficiency in our food system and use of natural resources, then we might be able to save ourselves money and food, while also meeting the growing food demand.

Additionally, eating less and eating locally grown food (and thereby wasting less and lowering transportation carbon foot print) promotes a happier and healthier lifestyle, while also lowering personal and societal medical costs.

(source)

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

January 3, 2013

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“Human Muscle, Regrown on Animal Scaffolding” – New York Times, 16 September 2012

The Defense Department’s Office of Technology Transition is funding a new project that has the potential to help thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who have been injured and lost large amounts of muscle mass from their limbs. The trial will aid 80 patients, both veterans and civilians, in growing new limb muscle through a material called extracellular matrix.

Extracellular matrix, a material that exists in both people and animals, is the natural scaffolding that forms the foundation for tissues and organs. It is made by cells, and mainly composed of collagen and other proteins; only very recently did scientists realize its true purpose: extracellular matrix tells the body to grow and restore tissues and organs.

Scientists are using matrix from pigs, sheep and other animals to stimulate growth of replacement tissue in humans. In the past, extracellular matrix from animals has been effectively used as a reinforcing layer to aid in the restoration of damaged rotator cuffs and hernias.

This method has successfully regrown muscle in one patient so far, Marine Sgt. Ron Strang who lost part of his leg muscle in an explosion in Afghanistan. Extracellular matrix extracted from pig urinary bladder was used to regrow muscle in Sgt. Strang’s leg. Post-surgery, Strang’s body instantly responded to the matrix, signaling stem cells to come to the area and become muscle cells.

Patients must still have some leftover muscle and nerves so that the muscle can work. Scar tissue is removed before inserting the matrix, so that the matrix can interact with healthy tissues and be near the bloodstream and source of cells. The matrix needs to be inserted into the muscle so that the matrix is activated when the muscle begins moving again — this happens immediately after surgery, when the patient begins an accelerated regimen of physical therapy. Moving the muscle tells the body that the matrix should become muscle and not a different kind of tissue.

Some of the primary improvements in Sgt. Strang’s leg might have been from the mechanical connection between the extant muscle and matrix; but as the matrix has deteriorated in his leg, he has showed continued improvement.

This is a good example of how people, agriculture and technology can, and must, live in harmony and prosper together.

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

January 3, 2013

Fluid Management Systems

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Time is Running Out to Pass a Farm Bill in 2012

In the US, we have something called a Farm Bill, which is the main agricultural and food policy for the federal government. The bill is renewed every 5 years by Congress, and manages agricultural activities under the periphery of the Department of Agriculture.

The farm bill can actually be a contentious issue, and can affect international trade, environmental conservation, food safety and rural communities. The most current farm bill, which was passed in 2007, expired this September; however, no new legislation has been passed by Congress since then. Many decisions involved in a new farm bill are directly related, and affected by, our recession and the fiscal package.

The White House and Congress are at a political standoff, which is further worrying farmers. It is farmers’ hope that a new bill will be included in the fiscal package before year’s end — if legislation isn’t renewed, then milk and cheese prices will soar, affecting farmers and consumers alike. Extension of current law would be a relief for now, but would only be a band-aid for the existing problem. However, if neither current law is renewed nor new legislation passed, milk pricing would regress to the old system — the Agricultural Act of 1949 — where milk was set at $6 a gallon. The old system of milk pricing is out-of-date and unaligned with our current economy and market conditions.

The Agricultural Act of 1949 delineates how to set milk prices; the act is overridden when a new farm bill is passed, but will be effective if no new bill or extension is passed. The act includes a component that assures that minimum milk prices will cover producers’ costs. The government also assures producers that it will buy milk products at that price point; however, producers typically profit more through the consumer market. Given the existing market conditions, the government-set price could double, which could persuade farmers to sell their products to the government rather than through the private market. Because of this, store prices for consumers could skyrocket. If the government keeps accumulating milk, then it will subsequently have an excess of dairy products in storage. Eventually, prices could decline as the government sells its dairy stockpiles.

Increased milk prices could put American dairy farmers and cheese-makers out of line with the international market; instead of buying American-made dairy products, consumers could be looking at alternatives, such as foreign-made cheeses, and soy and almond milk.

What stands between the White House and Congress passing new legislation in 2012 are disputes over the food stamps program — three quarters of the farm bill goes into funding food stamps. The Senate bill, spearheaded by conservative lawmakers, would cut food stamps by $4 billion.
At this point, farm lobbyists are pushing to have any legislation passed before the new year so that dairy farmers will not have to revert to old legislation. This is an obscure issue that isn’t given much limelight, and many Americans don’t even know of this bill’s existence; yet, deep cuts into the farm bill could greatly affect everyone.
Like most issues facing our country today, the public expects lawmakers and lobbyists to work together and let the country move froward to a market-based system. We think that this is very reasonable expectation; however, it isn’t as reasonable as we think.

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

December 19, 2012

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