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Friday Finds: The FDA’s Drug Addiction

FDA gives “okay” to continue drugging livestock
Farmers can continue giving healthy cows, pigs and other livestock routine doses of penicillin and tetracyclines—two commonly used antibiotics—even though the practice threatens public health, reports Forbes. The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to no longer consider withdrawing approval of the common practice comes after years of meat and produce recalls that have been contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and sickened many. It also comes after the agency’s own guidance showed that drugging animals who aren’t sick is, simply put, a bad idea. No doubt, consumer advocacy groups were disappointed in the government’s decision; however, the FDA’s decision wasn’t all bad. It did decide to ban the indiscriminate use of another class of antibiotics called cephalosporins in healthy animals, citing concerns over the growing threat of cephalospins-resistant bacterial infections found in people. Too bad that cephalosporins account for a tiny and rapidly shrinking percentage of overall antibiotic use on factory farms, as Mother Jones recently pointed out. Nice try, FDA.

Natural gas bonanza claims based on dicey guessing games
Mainstream media reports of a 100-year natural gas supply lying beneath our feet is largely based on hypothetical speculation, reports Slate. Recently, the online magazine found that of 2,170 trillion cubic feet (tcf) estimated to lie beneath U.S. lands, only 273 tcfs--or 12 percent of the total amount--are “proved reserves,” meaning that they actually exist and are commercially viable to drill. That leaves us with only about 11 year’s worth of proven natural gas reserves, not 100 years, as the industry claims. The idea that there's another almost 2,000 tcfs of natural gas out there is considered to be either “probable,” “possible,” or “speculative.” Speculative, by the way, means “based on conjecture or incomplete facts or information,” according to the Encarta Dictionary. Another word for speculative is “risky” or “hypothetical.” As Slate so aptly points out, “By the same logic, you can claim to be a multibillionaire, including all your ‘probable, possible, and speculative resources.’” Just one more thing to consider before we risk our health and environment to drill another well with “speculative” reserves.

North Carolina farmer goes whole hog on renewable energy
A hog farmer in North Carolina is taking the tons of stinky, potentially hazardous waste produced by his 8,000-plus hogs and turning it into clean energy, reports the LA Times. Thanks to a financial boost by Duke University, Duke Energy and Google, Loyd Bryant recently installed a new waste-processing system that uses bacteria to produce methane from the waste, which can then be burned for energy, effectively cutting Bryant’s electricity bill in half. The system is also able to convert toxic ammonia into fertilizer that can be used on high-value crops like corn and wheat. The new system, lauded as one of the cleanest in existence, is part of a growing interest among farmers in waste-to-energy systems across the country. In addition to saving farmers money, the digesters also take care of the age-old problem of animal waste, which can contaminate drinking water and negatively impact air quality

Melting mountains make climbing tougher
Climate change may make mountain climbing more difficult, reports the New York Times. Warmer conditions are melting rock solid ice that acts as a “glue” to keeping the various bits of a mountain stuck together. As the ice melts, some rock formations become a lot more unstable, making it difficult for climbers to get a solid foothold. To date, almost every area and route in every range has been affected, climbing magazine editor Jeff Jackson told NYT. That no doubt includes places like Glacier National Park, whose glaciers are predicted to melt entirely within the next decade. Newbie climbers are especially at risk because they may not be up-to-speed on the changes created by melting ice. As if climbing a mountain weren’t already difficult enough.

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