What We're Doing

Policy Solution

We put legal and public pressure the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to curb unsafe antibiotic use in the livestock industry and promote practical alternatives.

Policy Solution

We're helping create a set of standards so can ranchers raise—and consumers can easily find—better beef.

Related Priorities

What You Can Do

5 Tips for Buying Better Beef

How to decode all those labels, find responsible producers, and help force change in the beef-production industry through the power of your dollars.

Experts & Resources

REPORT: Roadmap for a Future Where Antibiotics Still Work
David Wallinga, MD

As the national (and global) crisis of antibiotic resistance worsens, it garners more attention. Deservedly so. "We are running out of antibiotics fast“ is how the “Stopping Superbugs" series PBS NewsHour began earlier this month. Without stronger, swifter action—my friends who are infectious disease docs warn—we’ll find ourselves living in a world where once routine infections are no longer treatable. All of us share the sense that more could be done, and must be done to avoid this catastrophe. But what’s required, and by whom? 

Today a new report, Combating Antibiotic Resistance: A Policy Roadmap to Reduce Use of Medically Important Antibiotics in Livestock, answers both questions. Released by a commission of independent experts, it offers 11 core recommendations for action by everyone, from policymakers to food companies, medical professionals to hospitals. The full report can be found here

With permission, GWU Antibiotic Resistance Action Center

The Roadmap focuses on livestock because the resistance crisis amounts to a ‘numbers game,’ where risks mount with each person or animal given to antibiotics, and the duration and frequency of that usage. And yet, 70% of medically important antibiotics sold in the U.S. are for use in food animals, not people. Moreover, those sales continue to rise, to more than 21.3 million pounds of antibiotics in 2015—26 percent more than in 2009. We can't solve the bigger resistance problem without tackling the overuse of medically important antibiotics in livestock, in other words. 

Unfortunately, existing federal policies are not adequate to reverse the unnecessary uses of these drugs. One massive FDA loophole, for example, is that it still allows such antibiotics to be fed routinely to flocks or herds of healthy animals, under the guise of preventing disease.

The Commission’s twelve experts, including five veterinarians, created a roadmap for a different path forward. Its core recommendations are both commonsense, and easily implemented at many levels. For example, they include: 

  • Creating hard targets and timelines for reducing livestock antibiotic use.
  • Ending the practice of routinely feeding medically important antibiotics to flocks or herds of food animals that are not sick.
  • Reducing the need for antibiotics in the first place, by adopting new technologies (e.g. vaccines) and the best non-antibiotic herd management practices to improve animal health and prevent disease.

Sadly, prospects are dim that federal agencies will close loopholes and take stronger actions anytime soon to avoid or reduce unnecessary antibiotic use. But cities, states, medical organizations, hospitals and food companies, as the Commission suggests, can and must lead.

The good news is that many have been doing so. California and Maryland recently passed new laws ensuring that antibiotics will only be used in food animals that aren’t sick. And 12 of the nation’s top 15 fast food restaurants have made some commitment to curb unnecessary antibiotics used by their chicken suppliers. Still the spread of antibiotic resistance marches on. As the story said, ‘we are running out of antibiotics fast’. And we all face the consequences together.

To save our miracle drugs, we need more bold state action, and continuing change in the marketplace. But it can’t stop there. Pork and beef producers should take a page from chicken industry leaders, step up and embrace reductions in their antibiotic use—and so should the USDA, FDA and the White House.  

For the sake of our patients, and our kids, I hope that leadership comes sooner than later.

Blog Post

Against the backdrop of crisis in untreatable or nearly untreatable infections, sales of antibiotics for use in livestock—which help drive this epidemic—just keep surging upwards.

Blog Post

Of course, kids can die from superbugs just as adults do. A new study explores deeper into how the superbug crisis threatens your kids.

Blog Post

The Washington Post reported this week about a CDC and Pew study that indicates that nearly 1/3 of antibiotics prescriptions are not needed, and there has been a “frightening rise of drug-resistant superbugs in recent years.” Without working antibiotics, modern medicine’s foundations begin to tremble and shake.

This Harmful Pesticide Should Have Been Banned Years Ago. Now It Could Finally Happen.
Miriam Rotkin-Ellman

Thankfully, senators are stepping in where Donald Trump’s EPA has fallen down. 

iStock

Later today, Senate leaders will stand up for children by introducing a bill to ban a pesticide that is currently found at unsafe levels in our food and water, one that is seriously jeopardizing the health of agricultural communities.

Chlorpyrifos (say “klor-PEER-a-foss”) damages the developing brains of children and has been shown to significantly increase the risk of learning disabilities. Yet the Trump administration refuses to finalize a ban that has been recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s own scientists.

The bill going before the Senate today is critically needed, since the EPA’s stalling has meant that millions of pounds of this poisonous chemical continue to be sprayed on food crops that children love—apples, oranges, strawberries, and many others—contaminating our food supply and drifting from fields into our homes and schools. Toxic residues are routinely found on fruits and vegetables; they’ve even been found under the peels of oranges and other citrus fruit and in the flesh of melons under their rinds. Scientific analysis conducted by the EPA has concluded that the amount of this chemical ingested by young children could exceed safety levels by 140 times.

All of this has justifiably alarmed pediatricians and policymakers. Ultimately it has led the American Academy of Pediatrics to call for a ban on chlorpyrifos, and spurred attorneys general in seven states to formally object to the EPA’s refusal to take necessary action toward getting this pesticide out of the fields and off our plates for good.

In fact, scientists, pediatricians, and advocates for children and the environment have been sounding the alarm on chlorpyrifos for decades. In 2000, an overwhelming acknowledgment of the risks that it posed to children resulted in a ban on indoor uses. (It had been a popular choice to kill cockroaches and ants.) But the chemical industry fought back hard and was able to retain the lucrative agricultural market—even though it meant poisoning farmworkers, contaminating the air and water, and leaving toxic residues on our food.

As a result, this chemical is now ubiquitous in the bodies of Americans. Multiple studies have shown that its presence is directly linked to eating conventional, nonorganic produce, the kind that’s typically grown with the aid of pesticides. When children consume only an organic diet, chlorpyrifos levels in their bodies plummet. At the same time, children growing up in agricultural communities—many of them with parents who work in the fields—display much higher levels. Studies have tied this increased exposure to increased risk of IQ point loss and developmental delays.

Fast-forward 16 years, through multiple rounds of legal wrangling and three separate reviews of the science by independent scientific advisors. Last November, we finally saw the EPA take chlorpyrifos seriously, with the release of a health assessment finding that the levels of exposure from food, water, and air greatly exceeded the levels shown in scientific studies to increase the risk of learning disabilities. Acting on these findings, the agency concluded that it could not meet the legal standard for allowing this pesticide to be used on food, and it summarily proposed a ban—which was later rejected by Scott Pruitt, the new EPA administrator named by President Trump. Although the EPA under Pruitt has refused to pursue the recommended ban on chlorpyrifos, the agency has put forward no new science or analysis—absolutely none—showing that this pesticide can be used safely. 

Here’s why that’s significant. Because we know that they’re so harmful, pesticides aren’t allowed, under federal law, to be used on food crops if the EPA can’t show that they can be used safely. And given the science, it’s clear that chlorpyrifos can’t meet this requirement. This discrepancy is the basis for ongoing legal action by a consortium of organizations—including NRDC, Pesticide Action Network, and several farmworker groups represented by Earthjustice—as well as six states, to hold the EPA accountable. 

Legal proceedings on pesticides can drag on for years before any changes are felt in the fields, a fact that provides little comfort to the members of those communities who must live with toxic spraying, day in and day out. One analysis conducted in California, the state that leads the nation in chlorpyrifos use, found that more than 300 schools and 150,000 children—disproportionately Latino—are at risk from toxic drift off nearby fields. These communities can’t afford to wait for the courts. Federal and state bans are urgently needed. 

The Senate bill being introduced today finally cuts through the excuses that have been coming from an administration—and an EPA administrator—with a track record of caring more about chemical-company profits than children’s health. This bill would stand up for children’s right to a safe food supply and an environment that allows them to thrive and succeed. By banning chlorpyrifos, Congress will stand with the American people and lead the way to safer food and farms for future generations.

Midwest Dispatch
State Legislators Say Iowa Has Achieved Sustainable Farming (It Hasn’t) and Doesn’t Need More Research (It Does)
Iowa's lawmakers have cut funding for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, leaving rural farmers in the lurch.
A farmer in Iowa

Scott Sinklier/Alamy

In Curtiss Hall, one of the oldest buildings at Iowa State University, students get their career advice and information on global agriculture from the Monsanto Student Services Wing, dedicated in 2012 with help from the colossal food tech company known for bioengineering seeds. But just two floors above, at the end of a long hallway, sits another institution: the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. This is a very different kind of center. It was named for renowned environmentalist Aldo Leopold, and its mission is to conduct research on the environmental and socioeconomic effects of farming, to develop profitable farming systems that protect natural resources, and to publicly share those findings. There one can find director Mark Rasmussen and a handful of other employees, and that’s about it. What the office lacks in size, however, it makes up in stature.

Mark Rasmussen, Leopold Center director

Courtesy of Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

“I always thought that the Leopold Center must be in some LEED-certified building,” says Angie Carter, who attended grad school at ISU before becoming a teaching fellow in environmental sociology at Illinois’s Augustana College. “I envisioned this mighty, beautiful place, and it is, but it’s really in the belly of the beast there.”

Founded in 1987, Leopold was one of the country’s first sustainable agriculture centers at a government-funded school. Since its founding, it has helped more than 600 projects get off the ground, and its researchers have fanned out across the United States, providing farming know-how to dozens of sustainable ag institutions. Similar centers based on the Leopold model have sprung up from California to North Carolina.

Most of the $1.1 million in grant money that the center doles out every year goes to Iowa’s rural farmers, with many of the grants helping to diversify the commodities produced in a state dominated by corn, soybeans, and pigs. But now the Leopold Center is in trouble.

Iowa legislators voted in April to give the state’s annual $1.5 million contribution to the center (three-quarters of its yearly budget) to the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, which doesn’t have to publicly share its work as Leopold does. The bill also proposed eliminating Leopold altogether. Former governor Terry Branstad kept it alive, albeit with far less funding.

The Hawkeye State depends on agriculture to fill its coffers, and profits from Iowa’s major commodities have taken a hit in the past few years. The price of corn, for example, has dropped from an all-time high of $8.15 per bushel in 2012 to $3.80 today. The cash-strapped government needed to make cuts, and it found one in the Leopold Center.

Their reasoning? Some lawmakers said the center had already fulfilled its goal of making farming sustainable. This is a bold claim in a state whose rivers have more nitrogen than most other Mississippi River tributaries, nitrogen that contributes to the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. “We’ve got water-quality issues, we’re still losing too much soil, we’ve got nutrients going down to the Gulf,” says Rasmussen. “There’s plenty of things to work on, no doubt about it.”

With such a crushing funding cut, the Leopold Center will have to stop paying for research on new or less prevalent crops. Every year, farmers compete for the center’s grants to start new projects, like research into hops or aronia berry production. If such crops become successful, they could help diversify the state’s ag market and keep midsize farmers in business—at a time when staying in business is a growing problem. Though the amount of Iowa’s farmland is increasing, according to the last census, it’s owned by fewer and fewer farmers. Unable to compete with commercial-scale operations, smaller farmers have been heading elsewhere. One of the Leopold Center’s priorities is trying to find ways for them stick around, says Rasmussen.

Alex Congera participates in a Leopold Center funded farming grant.

Courtesy of Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

ISU alum Ellen Walsh-Rosmann is one such farmer. She received support from Leopold to start FarmTable, a company that procures and delivers locally grown and produced food. Walsh-Rosmann also participated in a food-hub working group the center supports, collaborating with ISU professors to figure out how to buy and sell local food all over the state. Her company now works with 40 Iowa producers, distributing vegetables, honey, flour, maple syrup, meat, granola, salsas, soup mixes, and many other products to restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and corporate dining facilities.

“She’s lifted a lot of people up, and that’s the sort of work that’s needed to help diversify agriculture,” says Augustana’s Carter, a friend and former classmate of Walsh-Rosmann.

The Leopold Center addresses the needs of all Iowans, “not just a certain section of the food system,” says Walsh-Rosmann. “We need help with the brain drain that we have in the state.” From the beginning, she says, the Leopold Center has been very supportive and was just a phone call or an e-mail away whenever she needed guidance. When Walsh-Rosmann heard that lawmakers had voted to eliminate the center, she cried. Then she got angry. Two state legislators, Senator Jason Schultz and Representative Steven Holt, had recently visited her food hub and said they supported her enterprises and the resources she needed. Then they cast their votes to defund the center. “That was really insulting,” she says.

While Leopold is popular with small farmers, Big Ag and the politicians who support it aren’t huge fans—in part because the legislation that created the center focused on the damaging effects of fertilizer use in the state. After problems concerning nitrates in drinking water, such as blue baby syndrome, surfaced, legislators passed the Groundwater Protection Act in 1987. The legislation put a tax on fertilizers that would help fund a new center designed to study sustainable agriculture, which eventually became Leopold.

Iowa’s new law opened the door to similar legislation in other states. “The Leopold Center was really a stroke of political genius,” says Ricardo Salvador, who has been working on sustainable agricultural practices for 30 years. But this obviously did not please fertilizer companies, some of which have itemized the tax on farmers’ bills. Salvador, the director and senior scientist of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says tension between agricultural interests and the Leopold Center grew. And so did Big Ag’s political influence. One new state-subsidized fertilizer plant is currently coming online in Iowa, and fertilizer use remains high.

In Salvador’s words: Industry has won.

“It was our mission to always look at the underdog,” says Rasmussen. And now those underdogs are stepping in to fight for the institution, writing op-eds and trying to secure funding from other sources. Without Leopold, who knows how long many small farmers, the likes of Walsh-Rosmann, will be able to stick around?

Urge your governor to lead on climate action

Susan Cosier
onEarth Story

A group of Illinois landowners have waged a legal battle against a fracking company to protect their agricultural community.

On the Front Lines

Molly Rockamann's 14-acre plot in suburban Missouri could be a model for the nation.

On the Front Lines

Organic farmer Jim Cochran proves that growing nontoxic strawberries isn’t just possible, it’s profitable.

On the Front Lines

A Texas farmer is bucking tradition by putting soil health above all else. The result? Water-retaining, nutrient-rich pay dirt.

NRDC in Action

Toxic algal blooms are suffocating waterways from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Erie.

Personal Action

Milk does a body good, but it also does a number on the planet.

Guide

Manicured turf grass lawns cover up to 50 million acres of land in America. But a new, no-mow movement is challenging this conformity—and helping the environment.

onEarth Story

Agriculture runoff is choking Lake Erie. Are lawmakers finally ready to tell farmers to knock it off?

Midwest Dispatch

Since the election, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio have been keeping their clean power progress strong.

Action Figure

A farmer’s daughter turned marketing exec tries something in-between: community gardening—where the business of “knowing your audience” applies just as well.

Midwest Dispatch

Meet some of the people who are striving to stop TransCanada’s dirty tar sands oil pipeline once and for all.

Action Figure

Sean Sherman wants to show the world another type of North American cuisine: indigenous food.

Crying Fowl: Major Grocers Stumble in Promoting Antibiotic Stewardship in Retail Chicken
Issue Paper

Across the country, scientists, physicians, and public health advocates have been sounding the alarm over rising rates of antibiotic resistance, one of the major public health crises of our time. Prominent health organizations agree that overuse of antibiotics in poultry and livestock production, in addition to human medicine, is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance. Grocery retailers are the middlemen who bring meat products to consumers. Their product selections grant consumer access to meats raised without routine antibiotic use. Retailers can either spur improved antibiotic stewardship by producers or reward continued routine use. 

We evaluated the five largest grocery retailers in North America on their oferings of chicken brands from producers with responsible antibiotic practices and their public commitments around antibiotic use. We also examined their signage and informational materials directing consumers’ attention to chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics, as well as the extent to which suppliers’ claims regarding antibiotic use were verified by an independent third party. Overall, unfortunately, we found that all five retailers have failed to provide leadership in promoting responsible antibiotic practices in their supply chains.

Victory
Colonel Sanders, We Salute You!
KFC will eliminate medically important antibiotics in its U.S. chicken supply chain by the end of 2018.

ahavelaar/iStock

The good news: Nothing’s changing about the taste of America’s most famous fried chicken. The even better news: KFC is moving away from less delectable production practices in its chicken supply. On April 7, the company announced that its U.S. restaurants would stop buying chicken raised with the use of medically important antibiotics by the end of 2018. KFC’s new policy caps an NRDC outreach effort begun more than a year ago and proves that conscientious consumers can help shape a marketplace where good values are good business.

As one of the biggest buyers of birds among U.S. restaurants, KFC is making a significant contribution to public health with this latest move. While the company purchases only a fraction of each flock from any given farm it works with, its antibiotics policy will require suppliers to phase out medically important antibiotics from the diets of all the birds in a flock. As a result, KFC’s decision has positive ramifications beyond its own chicken supply.

The new commitment from KFC could help turn the tide on antibiotic overuse in the chicken industry. U.S. Food and Drug Administration data continue to show a worrying increase in sales of antibiotics for livestock use in drug classes that humans rely on to fight infections.

Here’s why that matters. More than 96 percent of those drugs are distributed in feed or water—often en masse to animals that are not sick. Industrial farmers have used the practice to speed growth and to help their livestock survive crowded and unsanitary conditions. When producers use antibiotics again and again, some bacteria become resistant, multiply, and spread.

As these drug-resistant “superbugs” proliferate across a farm, they pose a major public health risk. Resistant bacteria can spread from livestock facilities through air, water, and soil, and even inadvertently through workers. Eventually these bacteria can make their way to our communities, our kitchens, and our bodies, where they can share resistance genes with other bacteria. Infections from common food-borne bacteria, such as Salmonella, can become more resistant to antibiotics, making illnesses that were once easy to treat no longer so curable. Every year in the United States, at least two million people contract antibiotic-resistant infections, resulting in the deaths of at least 23,000. These infections also carry an annual price tag of $55 billion due to hospital costs combined with lost productivity.

NRDC has been fighting antibiotics overuse for years, calling on chicken producers to limit antibiotics use to situations in which they must treat sick animals, and asking grocers and restaurants to support that policy. KFC is the latest in a succession of major restaurants that have decided to be part of the solution. Panera and Chipotle were early leaders in adopting responsible antibiotics practices. In recent years, Subway, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s have all announced plans to improve antibiotic stewardship in their chicken supply chains.

In early 2016, NRDC joined a broad coalition of public interest organizations, including the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Consumers Union, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and many others, to urge KFC to adopt a strong policy limiting antibiotic use. NRDC also hatched an unusual spokesperson—er, spokes-bird—named Auntie Biotic, a wisecracking chicken who had taken a few too many antibiotics and wanted the world to know about it. With Auntie’s help, NRDC’s scientists and policy experts helped keep antibiotic resistance on KFC’s radar through social media, news reports, and a visit to the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

The effort also involved outspoken consumers who care about public health, animal welfare, and corporate responsibility. All told, NRDC and its partners helped unite more than 475,000 people—online and on the street—to show their support for antibiotic stewardship and urge KFC to get its chickens off drugs.

And the company did. Thank you, KFC, for doing your part to keep antibiotics working for current and future generations.

Victory

NRDC helped get the world’s second-largest restaurant chain out of the antibiotics business.

Victory

How NRDC took an American poultry giant to task for its overuse of antibiotics.

onEarth Story

By 2050, drug-resistant superbugs will kill more people than cancer.

onEarth Story

"Frontline" takes a look at dangerous pathogens in America’s favorite meat.

Personal Action

Want to make a real difference with your grocery money? Find out where and how your food is produced.

On the Front Lines

Farmer Russ Kremer caught a drug-resistant infection from his own pigs. Now he's raising them right.

Personal Action

How to decode all those labels, find responsible producers, and help force change in the beef-production industry through the power of your dollars.

Personal Action

By working with schools, parents can make their kids’ cafeteria lunches healthier and more planet-friendly.

Personal Action

Five ways to ensure the fish you eat is healthy for you and for the environment.

¡Por fin! KFC, venderá pollo producido sin antibióticos
Carmen Cordova

Pixabay

Para todos los que disfrutan una cubeta de pollo frito, hay buenas noticias. KFC venderá muy pronto pollo producido sin antibióticos que son importantes para la medicina humana.

¿Por qué son buenas noticias? Porque el sobreuso de antibióticos en la industria avícola y ganadera, tanto como en la medicina humana, ha resultado en el desarrollo de la resistencia bacteriana a los antibióticos. Las bbacterias resistentes a los antibióticos representan una amenaza de importancia para la salud humana y son la causa de un creciente número de infecciones que son difíciles de tratar, que requieren estadías largas y costosas en los hospitales, y son a veces fatales. Eso quiere decir que la nueva política acerca de los antibióticos de KFC es una victoria de la salud pública y una buena noticia para todos, no solo los que disfrutamos de una cubeta de pollo. ¡Gracias KFC!

Con este compromiso, KFC se une a un grupo creciente de líderes de cadenas de comida rápida (10 de las 15 cadenas principales en EE.UU.) y avicultores que han dejado atrás el uso rutinario de antibióticos en la producción de pollos. Esto representa un gran paso adelante, porque un 70 por ciento de los antibióticos en los Estados Unidos  son vendidos para el uso en la producción avícola y de ganado. Además, sabemos que en la industria de producción animal, productores suministran antibióticos a los animales día tras día, aun cuando estos animales no están enfermos. Existen alternativas al uso preventivo e innecesario de antibióticos en la producción avícola y por eso, muchas compañías de comida rápida se han comprometido o han empezado a ofrecer pollo producido sin antibióticos debido a la demanda de consumidores acerca del uso responsable de antibióticos.

Desde el año pasado, NRDC (por sus siglas en Inglés) ha estado pidiendo que KFC se comprometa a vender pollo producido sin el uso rutinario de antibióticos y hace un año empezamos con nuestra campaña “Get Chicken off Drugs” (Drogas afuera de la producción de pollo). Grupos aliados como U.S. PIRG, Consumers Union, y Food Animals Concern Trust también han estado presionando a KFC para que cambie su política acerca de los antibióticos en su cadena de suministro de pollo frito.

El nuevo cometido por parte de KFC tendrá un impacto grande en la producción avícola debido al volumen de pollo vendido por la compañía. KFC es la cadena más grande de los restaurantes de servicio rápido que ofrecen “pollo en el hueso.”

Ha sido prometedora la adopción del uso responsable de antibióticos en la producción avícola durante los últimos cuatro años y esperamos que los productores de ganado quieran unirse al grupo que batalla contra la resistencia a los antibióticos y que ahora incluye a KFC. 

Superbug Saga 6.0: Signs of a Worsening Threat to Kids
David Wallinga, MD

Kids can die from superbugs, just as adults do. But a new study last week was among the first I’d seen to dive more deeply and specifically into how this superbug crisis threatens your kids.

The study's findings, which the author called “ominous”, appeared in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society. One takeaway was that infections among hospitalized kids due to one nasty kind superbug, called multidrug-resistant (MDR) Enterobacteriaceae, rose a dramatic 750% from 2007 to 2015. One particular variety of the same menace tops a new WHO priority list of global bacterial superbug threats released yesterday.

Enterobacteriaceae are a particularly problematic family of gram negative bacteria that includes E. coli, Klebsiella and Salmonella. It’s also among the many such superbugs that we already know are found in the U.S. food supply and on farms, as NRDC’s Carmen Cordova blogged yesterday.

Strains of Enterobacteriaceae have been popping up in U.S. patients that are pan-resistant (resistant to every medicine), or nearly so, including to colistin and carbapenem, two drugs of last resort that doctors rely upon when all else fails. On U.S. hog farms, too, they've found super-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, some of them carrying resistance to colistin or carbapenems, even thought neither is thought to be used in U.S. hog production. 

This study looked over an eight year time period at 94,000 kids discharged from children's hospitals, and who'd also had infections due to Enterobacteriaceae―mostly E. coli urinary tract infections, as it turns out. Thankfully, none of the infections were pan-resistant. But by the end of the period, in 2015, fifteen of every thousand of these kids had had infections resistant to multiple antibiotics―more than 7 times higher than the incidence among the kids being discharged 8 years earlier. Moreover the kids with resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections had hospital stays 20% longer compared to kids whose infections were not resistant.  

The incredibly rapid rise in MDR Enterobacteriaceae infections among kids is especially ominous. Younger patients have less developed immune systems than adults, so are less able to mount an effective defense against such infections. Much less recognized is the fact that there simply aren’t as many antibiotics available to treat sick kids as there are for adults; rising resistance to existing medicines only compounds the already limited choices facing a pediatrician.

One final, worrisome note. To date, super-resistant infections caused by gram negative bacteria like the Enterobacteriaceae have mostly been a problem in hospitals. The fear, and the expectation, was that as resistance worsened, infections would begin to arise among healthier populations out in community settings, as well. But in this study, more than three-quarters of the children with multidrug-resistant infections came to the hospital already infected. That means they contracted those infections from somewhere in their community or home―such as from friends, family members, food or farms―and not from other patients or staff while in the hospital.

Driving the development and spread of superbugs like this one are U.S. federal policies that still allow the antibiotics important to humans to be routinely given en masse to flocks and herds of food animals, at low doses and over long periods of time in the animal feed or water. Absent tighter federal controls, it’s critical that states step up to the plate instead. In Maryland, The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017 is an important bill trying do just that, by ensuring antibiotics are only given to livestock when they are sick.

That’s the kind of leadership that’s needed to reverse the trend towards rising numbers of painful, expensive, and ever-harder-to-treat infections in children's hospitals, including at Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland and elsewhere.

A Jobs and Infrastructure Program to Arrest Climate Change
David B. Goldstein

Job creation was a decisive factor in the recent election. But the question of how to create jobs rarely has been answered well.

Republicans and Democrats both value job creation and retention. If broad new programs were known they could have been implemented any time since the recession of 2007-9 (or even earlier when job creation tanked in the years 2000-2007 and manufacturing jobs were disappearing at their fastest rate ever [or since]). The fact that they mostly were not shows that good ideas were lacking.

Energy efficiency policies are much narrower in scope than the ideas that most economic policy analysts have considered to create employment. But they have the potential to produce new jobs at scale. I published a paper in Electricity Policy that sets forth new policy initiatives for infrastructure investment that will increase economic growth and reduce costs, especially for middle-class working households and for the poor. I wrote the paper with the goal of limiting climate change to a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Yet this suite of policies is also the most effective economic development proposal that has been set forward.

The first step is to continue and accelerate clean energy investment policies that are working well: energy efficiency policies that already are responsible for over 2 million jobs, and renewable energy promotion policies that have already produced 400,000 jobs. And efficiency policies have produced over $5 trillion in net savings.

The next step described in the paper is to adopt six new programs for enhanced energy efficiency and reducing of emissions of other greenhouse gases:

  • Fast, deep energy retrofits of all buildings
  • Smart growth and shared mobility
  • Strategic Energy Management in industry
  • Saving emissions in the supply chain
  • Improving forestry
  • Reducing methane leaks

The first efficiency policy alone is capable of generating some 500,000 new permanent jobs, focusing on the weakest sector of the American economy—construction.

Other new policies are designed to improve manufacturing competitiveness, helping us increase manufacturing jobs by accelerating the deployment of  new technologies in manufacturing that reduce costs and increase productivity while cutting pollution. This sort of increase in manufacturing competitiveness leads to expansions of manufacturing as well as keeping existing plants open.

I grew up in what we now call the Rust Belt so I witnessed, beginning in the 1970s, the shuttering of manufacturing plants that for decades had employed thousands at high wages. The reason for the closings was evident even to a teenager: the plants suffered from obsolete technology that had not been updated for at least 40 years. They had become increasingly uncompetitive over the years, all the while polluting the air so badly that I could never see things farther than a few miles away. We used to joke then that it was a shame American industry wasn’t bombed into oblivion like German and Japanese factories so that we could have rebuilt them with cleaner and more productive technology.

Increasing energy efficiency through better management systems and new technology, along with better operations, could have preserved the steel and oil refining and car manufacturing jobs that were the mainstay of the local economy in the 50s, while cutting costs and pollution. They could have done this by requiring the plants to improve their operations continually, investing in efficiency of energy use as well as overall efficiency of production.

Now we have the opportunity to do this on an economy-wide basis, increasing economic choices for the middle class while reducing costs.

We have the technology and know-how to rein in climate change at a profit. In so doing, we can put millions of Americans to work where they live, with good middle class jobs, while making America stronger and more competitive globally. We just need to choose to do so. And environmental motivations might be just enough to get the ball rolling. 

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