Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy
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Cook Organic not the Planet Campaign

New Report Details Problems With Factory Farms

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page, Food Safety Research Center page and our CAFO's vs. Free Range page.

It's the best of times and the worst of times for food in America. There has never been more tasty, healthy and sustainable food available, sourced humanely and locally. Just look at the explosive growth of organic food, up more than 20% over the past decade, and the success of both local farmers' markets - which have grown more than fourfold over the past 20 years - and green retail empires like Whole Foods. Even fast food is getting more sustainable; the Mexican-food chain Chipotle has built market share by advertising its organic, local and humane ethos.

But that's just a small slice of the overall food market in the U.S. - and for mainstream, conventionally raised food, things are bad and getting worse. At least that's the conclusion of a new report from John Hopkins' Center for a Livable Future (CLF) on the state of industrial food animal production in the U.S. "It's a bizarre thing," says Bob Martin, director of the food-safety program at CLF and a main author of the report. "There is intensifying interest in improving the quality of food and access to sustainable food in pockets around the country. But when it comes to major federal legislation or regulation in the area, nothing has happened."

The CLF release is actually a progress report on a major study put out by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production in 2008 (Pew wasn't involved in the new study). The results then weren't pretty. The Pew report warned that the density of farm animals packed into concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs) increased the risks of disease and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (Farm animals are given large amounts of antibiotics, often for growth promotion instead of disease treatment.) The report also raised concerns about animal welfare, pollution from big CAFOs and the growing economic concentration of the farming sector.

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