Monday, November 19, 2007

Growth in animal farming increases disease risks for humans, says FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has issued a serious warning against animal farming, especially intensive animal farming, for its risks to human health in a report entitled Industrial Livestock Production and Global Health Risks, published in September 2007 .

“The risk of disease transmission from animals to humans will increase in the future due to human and livestock population growth, dynamic changes in livestock production, the emergence of worldwide agro-food networks and a significant increase in the mobility of people and goods,” writes FAO in this policy brief [emphasis added].

Excessive concentration of animals in large scale industrial production units should be avoided, said Joachim Otte, FAO livestock policy expert.

The FAO stresses the reality of the enormous growth in both demand for meat and industrial animal rearing in recent years due to their expansion in Third World countries. In Asia, South America and parts of Africa, traditional animal farming methods are being replaced by intensive ones.

“These developments have potentially serious consequences for local and global disease risks, which, so far, have not been widely recognized by policy makers,” observed Joseph Domenech, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer.

Internationally, pig and poultry productions are the fastest growing and industrializing of all animal farming sectors, and industrial pig and poultry productions depend on a great movement of live animals. The movement of animals and the concentration of a high number of confined animals increases the likelihood of transfer of pathogens (disease-causing agents). In addition, confined animal houses produce a lot of waste, which may contain great quantities of pathogens and is disposed of on land without treatment, posing an infection risk for wild mammals and birds.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus is now a major international concern, but the ‘silent’ circulation of influenza A viruses (IAVs) in poultry and pigs should also be closely monitored globally, said FAO. Some IAVs are now widespread in commercial poultry and pigs and could lead to the emergence of a human influenza pandemic.

Although generally speaking this is in no way earth-shattering news in the sense that it’s what the animal rights movement has been saying for decades, it’s interesting to note that the body responsible for issuing these warnings is now a United Nations organization, with no concern for animal equality but purely for human health.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Eating bacon and sausages every day increases cancer risk by 20%, new authoritative report says

A comprehensive, authoritative, 517-page new study published this Wednesday by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research points to three major lifestyle factors contributing to a much greater danger of contracting cancer: obesity, alcohol and not least red meat, especially processed or cured meats.

The cancer risk from processed meats is now considered to be comparable to that from smoking as a long recognised risk for lung cancer.

Eating 50 grams of cured meat a day increases the risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer by 21%. Compare that to tobacco: smoking 20 cigarettes every day increases the risk of lung cancer 20 to 40 fold.

The study simply recommends to avoid all processed meats like bacon, ham, sausages, salami and similar meats. For them there is no safe level of consumption, says Martin Wiseman, project director of the report.

This report represents the most comprehensive review of the evidence on the subject, and is considered a landmark. It is the result of five years of work by nine teams of 21 scientists who are world experts on cancer, who reviewed 7,000 studies on diet, weight, exercise, and their links to cancer.

Several types of food carry a risk of tumour, but nothing is as dangerous as cured or processed meat, because the bad effect of red meat is enhanced by the curing process. Bacon, ham, sausages, salami are particularly harmful.

It’s nothing fundamentally new. In fact the conclusions of the study are in harmony with the dietary recommendations of the World Health Organization, medical bodies, health experts, governments health departments: eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and reduce or avoid red meats, dairy products and fats if you wish to protect yourself against heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

But it’s something that most people still do not know well enough.

The American Institute for Cancer Research also published a survey of 1,000 American adults showing that the majority do not understand these risks. 71 per cent of the people interviewed still incorrectly think that pesticides are a major cancer risk, whereas in fact they are not even remotely the biggest culprit, given the infinitesimal amount in which they are normally ingested by human consumers. There is no evidence that pesticides are a risk factor in cancer.

But the “nice” foods that the general population of the West has grown up believing to be good for them are actually the worst killers, comparable to tobacco.

Of the people polled in the survey, just 38 per cent was aware of the link between cured meats and cancer, and only 49 per cent knew that diets poor in fruits and vegetables increased the risk of cancer.

"Americans are increasingly likely to attribute cancer to factors over which they have no control, and for which no proven links to the disease exist," the survey concludes. "This reflects an 'everything causes cancer' mindset".

It’s easy to see why: it’s harder to take control over one’s life, and make difficult choices and changes. This despite the fact that lifestyle causes of cancer are actually good news, because they mean that we can influence our future at least to a certain extent.

"We need to think about cancer as the product of many long term influences, not as something that 'just happens,'" said Dr Walter Willett, a nutrition expert at the Harvard School of Public Health in Massachusetts.

Incidentally, the new study on nutrition advises to avoid dietary supplements, which could represent a problem for vegans.