Pharmaceuticals Down on the Farm

Congress is looking at restricting antibiotic use on livestock farms. The drugs are added to the animals’ feed to help stop diseases. Antibiotics also make the animals grow faster, and that’s good for farmer’s profits. Mark Brush reports… public health officials are concerned:

Transcript

Congress is looking at restricting antibiotic use on livestock farms. The drugs are added to the animals’ feed to help stop diseases. Antibiotics also make the animals grow faster, and that’s good for farmer’s profits. Mark Brush reports… public health officials are concerned:

A lot of researchers say overuse of antibiotics on farms can lead to bacteria that are resistant to the drugs.

A bill in Congress would stop the drugs from being used to promote growth… and just use them to treat sick animals. The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act is sponsored by the only micro-biologist in Congress. Representative Louise Slaughter from New York:

“And we’re watching a whole new classification now of bacteria, which was basically just a cut above harmless, become deadly. Particulary Staphylococcus aureus, which was as common as dirt, but now is MRSA. And can kill you in twenty-four hours.”

Slaughter says the Food and Drug Administration is not doing enough. So Congress has to step in.

The livestock industry says current regulations are enough.

For the Environment Report, I’m Mark Brush.

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Super Weeds on the Rise

Farmers across the country are increasingly using genetically
modified crops that are resistant to an herbicide commonly known as
“Roundup.” But as Tracy Samilton reports, weeds are starting to
develop resistance to the chemical, too:

Transcript

Farmers across the country are increasingly using genetically
modified crops that are resistant to an herbicide commonly known as
“Roundup.” But as Tracy Samilton reports, weeds are starting to
develop resistance to the chemical, too:


Glyphosate, known by the brand name Roundup, kills all kinds of plants –
except for crops engineered to resist it. Unfortunately, weeds are
beginning to develop Roundup resistance, too.


Steve Duke is a researcher with the US Department of Agriculture. Duke
says there are ways to slow the evolution of Roundup-resistant weeds,
such as rotating crops, rotating herbicides and using more than one
herbicide.


But many farmers aren’t using the techniques, because they’re more
trouble and more expensive:


Farmers tend to think, oh there will be another silver bullet coming
down the pike in the near future, so they want to maximize their
profits this year.


Duke says farmers could use glyphosate for a lot longer if they follow
the recommended practices. Duke says that’s good, because Roundup is considered
less harmful to the environment than other herbicides.


For the Environment Report, I’m Tracy Samilton.

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Beech Bark Disease Survivors Are Resistant

  • Beech bark disease often causes the tree's bark to become scaly. (Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR)

Researchers might have a partial solution to the problem of beech bark disease. The disease has killed millions of beeches in the northeast and is advancing on the woodlands of the Midwest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton has this report:

Transcript

Researchers might have a partial solution to the problem
of beech bark disease. The disease has killed millions of beeches
in the Northeast and is advancing on the woodlands of the Midwest.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton has this report:


Beech bark disease happens when an insect infests beech trees. Then the
trees are killed or crippled by an opportunistic fungus. Where the
disease has struck, researchers found one to five percent of the trees had
natural resistance to the insect.


Jennifer Cook is a USDA Forest Service researcher.Her experiments found that seeds from two resistant parent trees produced progeny that are also resistant. That could set the stage
for reforestation and even pro-active plantings.


“People can plant them before the disease gets there and
therefore lessen the impact on their forest lands.”


Cook says if you’ve got a big beautiful beech tree you want to save, you
can scrub the tree’s bark with insecticidal soap once a year. Of course
it would be impossible to scrub every beech tree in the forests.


For the GLRC, I’m Tracy Samilton.

Related Links

Will Chestnut Trees Make a Comeback?

  • Due to a blight, American chestnuts are now rare in the Midwest. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

In the first half of the last century, there were millions of American chestnut trees ranging from the Eastern seaboard to the Upper Midwest. Now, there are virtually none… because a fungus killed them. A campaign is being launched to bring back a blight-resistant version of the chestnut… and it’s being planted here in the Midwest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen
reports:

Transcript

In the first half of the last century, there were millions of
American chestnut trees ranging from the Eastern seaboard to the Upper
Midwest. Now, there are virtually none because a fungus killed them.
A campaign is being launched to bring back a blight-resistant version of
the chestnut, and it’s being planted here in the Midwest. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Cohen reports:


Sprouts from diseased chestnut trees don’t get the killer fungus until
they’re 4 inches tall, so researchers like Brian McCarthy of Ohio
University have had plenty of raw material to breed a new version of the
chestnut tree.


“Fifteen-sixteenths pure American chestnut and one-sixteenth Chinese
chestnut. And that one-sixteenth of the genome confers blight resistance.”


Ohio is now planting hundreds of the new seedlings on top of abandoned strip
mines. McCarthy believes they may help reclaim the land.


“It’s not that chestnuts like this kind of soil. It’s that probably that chestnuts can
tolerate this type of soil better than other broadleaf tree species can.”


McCarthy hopes that a century from now, the blight-resistant chestnut
trees will once again be prominent in forests, providing high-quality
lumber and food for wildlife.


For the GLRC, I’m Bill Cohen in Columbus.

Related Links

Lice Exterminators Pluck Profits

Over the past several years, lice outbreaks have become more frequent
and more severe. Some scientists believe it’s because a new strain of
lice have developed resistance to both over-the-counter and prescription
lice treatments. But as researchers scratch their heads and wonder what
to do to control these "super lice", some new businesses are jumping in
with an answer. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson
reports: