Organic farming – lifestyle or lifeline?

18 October, 2012

There are some people who believe that organic is just a lifestyle choice.

I see it differently. Increasingly, organic is the only rational choice to maintain a sustainable and productive farming system, to preserve the essential diversity of the natural world and to ensure the quality and safety of the foods we eat.

Now there’s another good reason to add to the list. Ensuring that vital medicines such as antibiotics continue to work when they are most needed.

I don’t say this lightly. I’m the first person to refuse antibiotics and I’m proud to say my grown up son has never once used them. Proud because I managed to protect him from frivolous prescribing habits of doctors and proud because hopefully if he ever needs – and I mean really needs – antibiotics, they have some chance of actually working.

Antibiotic resistance is now of such a scale globally that most of us can’t comprehend it. And it’s getting worse. First there was hospital acquired MRSA. Then community acquired MRSA. Now there’s livestock-associated MRSA. And there’s no cure.

Recently a joint research project of American and Dutch researchers found that intensive livestock farming was a breeding ground for livestock associated MRSA. The more animals in one place, the greater the risk.

This MRSA doesn’t just remain on the farm. It lodges in the nasal passages of farm workers and is carried out into the community, where it is spreads to the rest of us.

This is a problem that has been building for some time. In 2010 scientists identified a strain of MRSA emerging from the factory farms of Northern Europe.

Last year researchers at the University of Cambridge identified another new strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in milk from dairy cows.

The new strain’s genetic makeup differs greatly from previous strains, which means that current tests used to identify resistant types of MRSA are not able detect it. This strain has now been found in people in Scotland, England, Denmark, Ireland and Germany.

Earlier this year antibiotic residues in sausage meat were linked to an increased likelihood of food poisoning.

Organic farming avoids unnecessary antibiotic use, meaning our meat and milk and communities are safe from these kinds of risks.

Choosing organic isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a life line. Let’s grab it before it’s too late.


Pat Thomas, Editor