Sex Addicted Genetic Einsteins, or how meat might bring the world to its knees

April 5, 2008 in Local Food

Bacterial Conjugation

(Bacterial Sex – public image – wiki)

Now, just because we have grown up eating seemingly innocuous chicken, pork, and beef bought from the grocery store, a practice handed to us by our own moms and dads, it doesn’t mean that we have provided knowing consent for the development of massive fecal lagoons on factory farms that greatly outsize even the most ambitious pool or swimming pond.

Never heard of fecal or manure lagoons? I love this description by Al Franken in his 2003 book “Lies And the Lying Liars Who tell Them”

“I want to draw you a word picture of a lagoon you may remember from Gilligan’s Is­land, where a caged lion or an Indian in a canoe might wash up just to get that week’s episode rolling. This lagoon is a rectangle the size of three football fields, lined with 40-mil high-density polyethyl­ene and filled, to a depth of thirty feet, with pig shit.

Now imagine that, at the bottom of the lagoon, pebbles have punctured the liner, allowing the liquefied pig shit to seep under and ferment. A bubble is growing. The polyethylene liner rises like a creature from the brown lagoon. It breaks the surface, spilling a pungent stew of untreated feces and urine into a nearby creek. An undocumented Guatemalan worker is ordered to puncture the liner with a shotgun blast. Retching, he fires. The swollen liner re­treats into the fetid depths. Mission accomplished.

The next day, however, one of the most magnificent sights in all of nature, a shit geyser, explodes into the afternoon sky. Those working nearby watch the pillar rise ten, then twenty, then thirty feet above the lagoon. It is as though the Earth itself is afflicted with a virulent case of projectile diarrhea.

Hold that image in your mind.” (Borrowed for educational purposes)

We do not usually visualize the high throughput nature of our meats – chickens, pigs, cows – all packed into densities that REQUIRE the use of antibiotics just to keep the animals standing long enough to make it to market. If there were not for rules requiring a standing animal (a characteristic of a supposedly healthy ENOUGH animal to eat) then the high throughput factory farms would likely push for genetically modified legless animals they could warehouse sorta like that scene in the Matrix where Neo wakes up in his bioreactor.

If nothing else, all body plans above aquatic sponges have evolved for mobility. Lack of mobility = compromised metabolism and reduced ability to fight off infection. Just look at your average 4th grade class and the obesity to see the effect of poor mobility on the body.

All of these things may not get you in the gut, I know that.

You may be forced to feel it in the gut soon though because there is now direct measured evidence of bacteria that THRIVE on antibiotics.

You heard me right kids – George Church – a world renowned geneticist at Harvard, reports in Science Magazine this week that they have identified, unexpectedly, bacteria sourced from soils exposed to manure from cows that have been treated with antibiotics absolutely LOVE to eat those same antibiotics.

See “Scientists find host of antibiotic-eating germs”

This is the link to the scientific article but its pay-per-view, sorry.

Antibiotics, those that are almost pumped into our dairy and beef cows, are now the food of choice for some bacteria.

You might say – well these are JUST soil bacteria – and you would be wrong in any sort of assumption that this means that we are safe.

Bacteria are nothing if not promiscuous.

Think of the soil bacterial ecology, exposed to manure with impossibly high levels of antibiotics. That ecology is like a testing ground filled with billions of little genetic Einsteins who each have a serious sex addiction. Brute force genetic selection leaves behind not only the resistant bacteria but also those who prefer to eat antibiotics for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Its unexpected yeah, but in no way was this an impossibility.

And that sex addiction? There is so much genetic cross talk that the bacterial genome is almost a meta-community. This is part of what makes them so successful. Not only can they pass their advantageous mutations to their downstream descendants, they can share these changes with their neighbors.

The sooner we move away the massive bacterial lallapallosa genetic testing grounds in and around and downstream of factory farm crap lagoons the sooner we can protect our children and theirs.

There once was, at the beginning of last century, a movement to have a small dairy in each small town. Think of it, a distributed milk model versus the concentrated distillery dairies that were pushed on America by city planners and those who wanted to profit from feeding the putrid effluent from big alcohol distilleries in and around big cities to cows who barely survived that toxic waste.

It would be fantastic if we could go back but we have been a bit too efficient ourselves in the genetic Einstein department.

I can not really say what the answer is for all but I can promise you that the bacteria will not be waiting around to find out.

Eating local, sustainable, rational, humanly produced meat is not just about taste kids, its about survival.