Risks of farming… are there more or less? What do you think?

January 19, 2011

This article is a bit disconcerting – “Superbugs, Agricultural Antibiotics, and Farm-Worker Infections: A New Study Connects the Dots” (Twilley, January 14, 2011). http://www.good.is/post/superbugs-agricultural-antibiotics-and-farm-worker-infections-a-new-study-connects-the-dots/  This is by no means my area of expertise,  the relationship between the use of antibiotics in agricultural practice and  increased disease resistance in humans, and nor can I judge the credibility of the source or the writer (perhaps someone out there can?).  Nevertheless, it brings to mind the notion of ‘risk’ and the farming vocation – and my family.


Grandpa Abraham & Grandma Barbara (circa ~1953)

My grandfather emigrated from Norway to Canada (through the US) in the late 1800s. He worked in New York for a time before crossing the border into what was then the Territories (now Saskatchewan).  He settled there, raised a family and farmed the land.  My grandfather died long before I was born.  But I remember watching my uncles working in the yard.  I distinctly recall Uncle Jacob dipping his bare arm into a 5 gallon pail of agricultural chemical, nonchalantly stirring it around,  then deftly wiping the excess with a rag and carrying on.  All of my uncles did this… All of my (farming) uncles have long since passed, and all of them due to neurological or brain related disease/cancer.  Now, I am not certain if there is relationship between the manner of their deaths and these unusual (unsafe) practices – but it is highly suspect.

Despite this, I feel that agriculture has progressed leaps and bounds since that time.  Safety is practiced far more diligently on-farm now more than ever. We know how to handle the chemicals and we are no longer ignorant to risk, so we know how to mitigate them.

According to the “Superbug” article, 3.7% of working farmers (in this study) were diagnosed with MRSA related infections. That rate seems alarming but if we put this all in historical context, would it not be safe to assume that the risks of farming are substantially lower now more than ever – no matter what the practice (conventional, organic or otherwise) or what inputs are used?



GMO regulations detrimental to crop development and research #research #GMO #GE #crop #agnerds #agnet #agchat


Check out page 729+ – article by Strauss et al on the implications of regulations on biofuel crops/development (grasses and woody plants) in US entitled “Far reaching Deleterious Impacts of Regulations on Research & Environmental Studies of Recombinant DNA-modeified Perennial Biofuel Crops in the US”
October 2010, Volume 60 No. 9

“…the current legal and regulatory situation places severe constraints on both the ability to develop GE crops at all, and then on the performance of adequate environmental studies to inform regulatory and other social decisions about their use…”  (p. 738).

Strauss etal outline some ways to address the current constraints/problems:

1. focus regulatory requirements on defined risks.
2. use scientific criteria for design of categories for a low-level presence (LLP) system
3. create an early stage LLP management system
4. clarify the role of NEPA and the CBD

According to Strauss etal, “…the regulatory thicket is deep and thorny…”  Resolving issues will require reworking of laws (in US and internationally) or “…a fundamental court precedent that stops the penalization of the GE process” and “enshrining into law the ‘product not process’ principle” (p. 739).

“Solving these problems will require new ways of thinking and strong scientific and political leadership to move us toward a regulatory system that enables, rather than arbitrarily blocks, the use of GE as a tool to accelerate and diversify the breeding of … biofuelcrops.”  (p.739). 

An article from Physorg.com outlines the report by Strauss and colleagues http://www.physorg.com/news205157589.html:

Article excerpt:  “The current environment poses enormous legal risks that can and have cost some companies millions of dollars in civil lawsuits, the scientists said, sometimes for damages that were more of perception and market issues, than of safety or environmental impact.”