Bacteria in the Food Chain
Over the last century many changes
to methods of food production have taken place. Any change
within the food chain has a domino effect reaching all connecting
links. Bacteria, microscopic in size, are vital participants
in the process of food through the chain from soil to plants
to the consuming animals and back to the soil. These tiny
powerhouses break down organic materials by enzymatic digestion.
Over some decades of practice the changes in food production
have had the effect of decreasing the populations of beneficial
bacteria in our food supply and producing new strains of antibiotic-resistant
"Superbugs" is the
new way of describing bacteria that have naturally genetically
modified in response to exposure to antibiotics. These superbugs
are resistant to antibiotics so they cannot be eradicated
with the plethora of drugs currently available. The attention
and research in this area is increasing throughout the world.
In its World Health Report 1996, the World Health Organization
stated that "too few new drugs are being developed to
replace those that have lost their effectiveness. In the race
for supremacy, microbes are sprinting ahead."
That bacteria have adapted to
the introduction of antibiotics into the food chain is not
surprising. In its 'Oldest
ever' fossils found report, the BBC News stated that "The
oldest and tiniest fossils yet identified
creatures, which resemble "pond slime", were found
in North West Australia and are estimated to be approximately
three-and-a-half billion years old. Bacteria and algae like
them are believed to have filled the primitive, super-heated
oceans of the world during the earliest stages of life on
this planet." Bacteria have successfully adapted to all
manner of environmental changes and impacts. They have an
immense capability to change.
"Bacteria can acquire resistance
genes through a few routes. Many inherit the genes from their
forerunners. Other times, genetic mutations, which occur readily
in bacteria, will spontaneously produce a new resistance trait
or will strengthen an existing one. And frequently, bacteria
will gain a defense against an antibiotic by taking up resistance
genes from other bacterial cells in the vicinity. Indeed,
the exchange of genes is so pervasive that the entire bacterial
world can be thought of as one huge multicellular organism
in which the cells interchange their genes with ease."
Changes that have affected
bacteria in the human food chain:
Mass production of food has lead to
short-cuts being adopted that leave out vital steps,
in particular leaving pastures to rest with forage crops,
legumes and animals. This slow composting of pastures
returns organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Bacteria
need dead organic matter to live and multiply and they
travel through the food chain to us from the soil so
if the soil is depleted this continues up the food chain.
In agriculture, antibiotics are applied
as aerosols to acres of fruit trees, for controlling
or preventing bacterial infections. High concentrations
may kill all the bacteria on the trees at the time of
spraying, but lingering antibiotic residues can encourage
the growth of resistant bacteria that later colonize
the fruit during processing and shipping. The aerosols
also hit more than the targeted trees. They can be carried
considerable distances to other trees and food plants,
where they are too dilute to eliminate full-blown infections
but are still capable of killing off sensitive bacteria
and thus giving the edge to resistant versions. Here,
again, resistant bacteria can make their way into people
through the food chain, finding a home in the intestinal
tract after the produce is eaten.
The same drugs prescribed for human
therapy are widely exploited in animal husbandry and
agriculture. More than 40 percent of the antibiotics
manufactured in the U.S. are given to animals. Some
of that amount goes to treating or preventing infection,
but the lion's share is mixed into feed to promote growth.
In this last application, amounts too small to combat
infection are delivered for weeks or months at a time.
No one is entirely sure how the drugs support growth.
Clearly, though, this long-term exposure to low doses
is the perfect formula for selecting increasing numbers
of resistant bacteria in the treated animals which may
then pass the microbes to caretakers and, more broadly,
to people who prepare and consume undercooked meat.
The western world's diet has increased
in consumption of processed and devitalised food. The
amount of sugar, fat, sodium, caffeine, preservatives,
artificial colours and flavours in these foods encourages
the growth of putrefactive organisms in the human digestive
system. These types of foods put loads on the human
system instead of providing nutrition. Modern medicines
that kill non-resistant bacteria leave areas clear for
resistant strains. People should also realize that although
antibiotics are needed to control bacterial infections,
they can have broad, undesirable effects on microbial
ecology within the intestinal system and elsewhere.
That is, they can produce long-lasting change in the
kinds and proportions of bacteria and the mix of antibiotic-resistant
and antibiotic-susceptible types not only in the treated
individual but also in the environment and society at
Antibiotics in the Food Chain
The widespread use of antibiotics
has had far-reaching effects. Imagine a rich lawn of grass;
there may be one or two weeds in it but they are not obvious
and do not spoil the overall effect. Now imagine the same
area after all of it has been sprayed with a herbicide designed
to kill grasses indiscriminantly. It is barren, but what happens
next? Many weeds start to propogate over the entire area.
Before the herbicide was applied the grass protected the area
from the majority of unwanted weeds; without the grass weeds
flourish. The same thing happens within our digestive system
when we use antibiotics. Bacteria are wiped out indiscriminantly
leaving an environment for strong resistant bacteria to take
Back to the grassy area; if
the area is replanted with grass and looked after the weeds
will not take over, but it is a matter of using enough grass
seed and regularly maintaining the area. If we do not repopulate
our digestive system with beneficial bacteria and then maintain
them, resistant bacteria can take over.
Multitudes of microorganisms inhabit
our systems; all have a role to play somewhere. If they migrate
to the wrong part of the system because that part has no competing
bacteria they can then become a problem. Imagine our grassy
area spreading its runners into a garden bed that has a lot
of open, uncultivated areas; the grass itself becomes a weed.
The same can happen with bacteria in our systems.
Candida albicans is a yeast normally found in the intestine. As long as the immune system is healthy Candida albicans is regulated and kept under control, it is considered a normal part of the intestinal flora. Many people who have a problem with candida overgrowth in their system have histories of antibiotic use. Any imbalance in the populations of friendly bacteria provides an opportunity for other microorganisms to over-populate rampantly and infect other body organs and tissues. Candida albicans has been found in peoples' mouths when they are badly infected; its place is in the intestine.
Most bacteria help us. They
work in our bodies, in the food chain, and in the decomposers
of the world to maintain life. They are designed for specific
roles and are a vital part of the world in which we live.
They may well be the only solution to some of the ecological
problems we face both within our systems and in the wider
community. They are powerfully designed to do some great things.
250 million years
Ancient bacteria trapped in a state of suspended
animation for 250 million years are the world's oldest living
things, claim US scientists.............
Balance of Nature: Food Chains & Webs
Food Chains and Food Webs: In the living world, every form
of life is food for another. Food chains and webs show how
food and energy are passed between species................
Bacteria and Biotechnology
Microorganisms play a crucial role in maintaining
the delicate ecological balance of the earth. They revitalize
the soil by recycling the minerals and nutrients of decaying
matter, and many are essential to the healthy growth of plants.
Microorganisms also affect our lives more directly in the
manufacture of such items as food products, detergents, antibiotics
and antitumor drugs..............
Microscopic in size, bacteria are the most
numerous organisms in the compost pile. They are on all natural
matter in the heap and reproduce at an amazing rate under
the proper conditions. Their work initiates the activity of
a succession of various organisms, each of which further breaks
down complex materials to be utilized by its successor. These
tiny powerhouses break down organic materials by enzymatic
digestion, resulting in chemical oxidation that promotes their
cost of taking nature out of farming
As the wide door swings open, the nostril-clenching stench
almost knocks you over. Sunlight slices through the windowless
gloom, across a jostling carpet of chickens stretching from
wall to wall............
disaster in the making
High amounts of antibiotics in food chain
signal major problems: WASHINGTON (IPS)Contrary to previous
estimates, the amounts of antibiotics used in animal agriculture
dwarf those used in human medicine, warns a new report by
a public interest organization. The high quantities of antibiotics
used in the rearing of pigs, cows and chickens is significant,
says the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), because of the
growing specter of antibiotic-resistant disease................
We've all heard the term Food Chain. What
follows is my interpretation of the Food Chain as regard the
stock reductions in many (if not all) fisheries. Let's take
a look at how it works:.....................
for One of the World's Most Dangerous Toxin Bacteria
People in the United States are sickened by
their food once a year, on average. But the food poisoning
that suddenly appeared in White City, Ore., in December 1981
was something else. It was terrifying, and dramatic, and it
seemed to have no cause. In the end, however, that mini-epidemic
turned out to be the first show of force by a new strain of
bacteria that is now infesting the food supply, infecting
as many as 20,000 Americans a year and killing 500.......
ever' fossils found
The oldest and tiniest fossils yet identified
will be unveiled at a meeting in Strasbourg next week. The
bacterial creatures, which resemble "pond slime",
were found in North West Australia and are estimated to be
approximately three-and-a-half billion years old..........
Many times when bacteria are mentioned,
they are mentioned in a negative context. We are all aware
that there are bacteria that can make us ill. An overwhelming
percentage of bacteria is beneficial to us, however. Bacteria
work within our bodies to do a number of good things. I
can remember years ago, I was invited to visit the "germ-free"
facility here in South Bend where germ-free animals are
produced for certain kinds of research. I remember one of
the workers at the lab complaining that they had a hard
time getting rabbits to reproduce if there were no bacteria
in their reproductive systems...........
Abatement & Reduction Council
As a commercial fisherman who has seen his industry transmogrified
by our intrusive government from an individually based healthy
way of life into profit centers for Government (via tarriffs),
Corporations (via regulations) and Universities (via grants),
I have come to the conclusion we have ALL been fighting the
wrong battle, and not only the wrong battle, but one there
is NO hope of ever winning. It's emotionally satisfying to
be right, but we have all lost anyway and there's no changing