James Andrews recently had a very well-written piece on Food Safety News covering the press conference held by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CFL) regarding the Pew Commission report written five years ago. It was well-written and well-researched, but that does not mean I agree with all the comments made. The CFL seems most incensed by the fact that Congress has not acted on the top six recommendations made in the report five years ago. First of all, I would not expect Congress to act every time someone or something asked them to. Secondly, if we are going to have policy change that affects something as large and important as American agriculture, let’s do it in an open, transparent fashion with all parties at the table, and not behind closed doors while staffers hammer out a new law. Thirdly, this would be the same Congress that embarrassed the United States of America by shutting down government for two weeks, right? And the same Congress that also moved catfish inspection over to USDA while leaving bison inspection with FDA. I was asked to write the forward for a piece published by members of the animal agriculture community that was released Monday. The report is titled: “Advances in Animal Agriculture: What the Center for a Livable Future, Pew Commission and Others Aren’t Telling You About Food Production.” It can be read in its entirety here. My forward follows: Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore We must be over the rainbow … Fifty years ago, I was a 16-year-old young man growing up in Loup City, NE. In Loup City, gainful employment for 16-year-olds was primarily limited to sacking groceries or working on neighboring farms. I chose the latter. For three summers and Saturdays during three school years, I worked for two brothers who shared responsibilities for a dairy operation, a cow-calf operation and the usual assortment of hogs, chickens and sheep. They were diversified, but they only fed a few mouths, which was fine because, back then, the majority of rural Nebraskans were linked directly to agriculture. As we have become a much more urban society over the past 50 years, farming has had to change by necessity to feed the city dwellers several generations removed from farming. American agriculture has also accepted the challenge of becoming more efficient in an effort to feed what is projected to be 9.1 billion residents of our planet. Why is that important? Because food insecurity not only causes children to die, it causes political unrest. Feeding the world is the right thing to do. Farming also has to accept the challenge of educating those city dwellers as to the reasons the changes we are seeing in farming are not only necessary but are also improvements in food safety, animal well-being and environmental responsibility. This document is an important first step in bringing modern agriculture’s improvements in animal health and productivity to the discussions about modern agriculture practices. Unfortunately, these discussions are sometimes led by those with ulterior agendas, such as trying to reduce the number of animals raised for human consumption by limiting the tools available that are safe for both humans and animals. These are tools such as selective breeding for maximum production and resistance to inclement weather; indoor feeding and growing facilities to limit exposure to vermin and parasites, extreme heat and cold, and wild birds serving as carriers of “bird flu”; maternity pens to protect submissive sows from dominant sows, assuring adequate access to feed and water; and better transportation systems, resulting in less stress for animals and promoting more humane handling. Modern agriculture has biological tools unheard of by the brothers and my grandfathers for whom I worked. These include rbST to help a cow produce 14 percent more milk while consuming less grain and water and producing less methane gas emissions. Biological tools like beta-agonists that produce a market-weight hog or steer in less time, again consuming fewer resources while keeping protein costs down and the environment healthier. Biological tools like antibiotics that help keep animals healthier by preventing or controlling disease, as well as treating actual disease. This is not only good for growth production but also a humane practice by preventing diseases that could wipe out an entire flock or herd. For those opposed to the Food and Drug Administration-approved use of antibiotics for disease prevention and control in animals raised for food, I could provide hundreds of examples of how antibiotics are used in human medicine for these purposes, including prophylactically administering penicillin to hundreds of college dormitory residents when one student has been diagnosed with Neisseria meningitidis, or giving an antibiotic before dental work to one who has an artificial heart valve. Why would some suggest that animals don’t deserve the same protection from a known risk? Food safety in this country is the best it has ever been, and part of that is because of modern animal-husbandry practices and food-safety technologies. We no longer recognize Trichinosis from undercooked pork as a human health risk. We no longer see children dying from tuberculosis and Brucellosis from drinking milk. E coli O157:H7 illnesses in humans were at an all-time low in 2010. While there are some who will continually question and criticize modern agriculture’s practices, I suspect they have never had to put a hungry child to bed and that they have the resources to shop the niche markets. Yes, we can and should offer choices to those who are able and want to pay more for “raised without antibiotics,” “hormone free,” “all natural,” etc., but those options will not feed the 14 million Americans who go to bed every night with an empty stomach. Because of continuous improvement and research by those involved in raising animals for food, we have the safest, most affordable and most abundant food supply in the world.