Memorandum submitted by Ms Joanna Wheatley (SFS 51)
Inquiry into food security to 2050
I am a beef farmer, and have owned and solely managed a beef herd since 1984 when I inherited my father's farm. My father had been unable to use many chemicals because they affected his breathing. I enjoyed the extra wildlife that afforded my acres so continued in the same vein. I also stopped buying in cattle and increased the herd solely by selecting the best female calves. This action effectively stopped me introducing infective diseases and parasites which enabled me to relax on routine worming and vaccination, none of the cows on my farm now, have ever been wormed or vaccinated, and are completely healthy and fertile. Apart from being more fertile they grow fitter and faster than neighbours do, and I only feed my own meadow hay in the winter.
When I left school I worked as a research scientists developing Organo Phosphate [OP] pesticides, so have had the benefit of experimental scientific training. This meant I questioned and rationalised rather than just followed the set trend, being raised on a farm I had good common sense you cannot fake things in the real world, it's actual, life or death profit or loss, it's not an experiment that you throw away and write up.
I became aware of the cavalier attitude of most farmers to chemical usage through being chairwoman of the local branch NFU. Cavalier promotion, plus inadequately dangerous warnings on containers, even the spouts of canisters would run back on to overalls, this situation has improved but the general farmer is addicted to the chemical quick fix, trapped like a hamster in a wheel.
In this position and regional livestock representative plus my mother has a neurological disease [never before had a neurological disease been considered infectious] I took a keen interest in BSE. Culminating in attending and closely following the BSE Inquiry, I went supporting the overuse of OPs theory but had to reconsider when I heard evidence about the use of injectable bovine based pharmaceuticals. With regard to BSE the specific use of growth and fertility hormones obtained from cadaveric pituitaries which have a history when injected directly into the same species of causing in humans CJD that became my greatest concern.
We are injecting cattle with the remains of other cattle, humans too, surely this is risky and should be acknowledged in risk assessments and monitored.
Furthermore what standards are these animals farmed to?
I consider the way I raise my cows to be the purest you could get and worthy of being a pharmaceuticals herd. As far as my MP, Adam Afriyie, and I can establish there is no such thing, even worse there seems to be no traceability as to where this material has been sourced. Whereas with food and feed the area is burgeoning with legislation leading to an unsustainable use of imported Soya and the like. The same expensive anomaly has arisen with pigs they all have to be fed expensive high protein cereals lest they become contaminated with Foot and Mouth [FMD]. In the rest of the world these restrictions do not apply. But these pigs could have got the disease through contaminated injectables; this situation is never checked.
Unless these loopholes are addressed we will continue to have uncontrollable outbreaks of diseases such as FMD, BSE, TB, to name only the most costly of transferable diseases by this route.
There is no legislation covering the collection of these valuable items at the abattoir although there are very expensive veterinary officials supposedly overseeing disease contamination. However with the best will in the world they cannot detect microscopic infection, this can only be achieved by routine microscopic testing of material, not by the vets who can be users of these materials, thus have an intellectually corrupt position.
Hygiene rules are completely different now to how they were thirty years ago, to the financial burden of livestock producers. It may even be to pharmaceutical standard, these materials are certainly leaving the abattoir, although the farmer receives no recompense or generally has any knowledge of such uses.
In order for the survival of livestock production in this country the above needs to be rectified.
Here is a list of the most important.
Open and accountable systems must be established so integrity can follow.
Pharmaceutical herds established with the farmer's knowledge and acceptance for which he should receive recognition and payment.
The animals are transported to a designated abattoir that needs to have all the extra measure suitable for this trade. The extra measures required for pharmaceutical standards should be borne by the recipients of the materials.
An audit trail should be established from the abattoir to the end use, including research materials, being logged along the way. So if contamination should happen it can be traced right back through the chain.
Absolutely no animals used in research of any kind should enter an abattoir, thus eliminating the ability to recycle and spread disease. These animals should be dealt with on site.
With regard to chicken production I am on less sure ground, but I do know for a fact that vaccines are grown in fertile eggs. I also know that salmonella and new strains of E coli which can give a very unpleasant tummy upset if ingested, a situation which animals have been coping with since the beginning of time, it can be expelled rapidly from the digestive tract. No so if injected there is no rapid expulsion method, hence the infection will be very serious.
Again are the producers aware that this is the trade that they are supplying?
If they are supplying this trade, they also should ease back on chemical use. Specifically OPs which may not only be in high residue in the grain they eat but also used as a douse for parasite control and their houses fumigated for 24 hours air control for flies etc. giving continuous dosing to the chicken that may provoke first signs of poisoning, flu-like symptoms. [As identified in Health and Safety Executive [HSE] Medical Statement [MS] No 17.
Could this be the route of Bird Flu?
I also know the OP grain treatment Pirimiphos Methyl can mutate E coli, thus forming new strains. A nightmare scenario for the farmer, all animals have E coli benignly living in their guts, surely if OP treated food is ingested then new strains are bound to occur.
The same affliction may be catastrophically affecting dairy herds, who have to be fed cereals because of the BSE regulations before mentioned.
The move towards Genetically Modified pharmaceutical replacements should not be hasty as these also usually have an animal base, which has been cloned. Still presenting the opportunity to create immune system rejection effects, which are bound to happen when injecting tissue within species, and unless you are going to administer anti-rejection drugs for the rest of the animal's life, which in itself would be unacceptable for food animals.
With direct respect to the questioned posed at 2.
Unless the above anomalies are addressed and corrected, meat and milk production of the UK will continue to become increasingly unsustainable and we will be increasingly reliant on imports, the quality and consistency of which we are less able to control. The turnover in cattle is increasing most dairy cows are burnt out by the age of 8 whereas cows used to last for routinely more than a decade. Chicken and pig finishing ages have shortened to keep prices competitive but that cannot continue. Both of these situations occur to the detriment of animal welfare, contented well-looked after will always 'do' better.
Soil quality will become increasingly less fertile unless the natural cycles of flora and fauna are protected and reintroduced where possibly. E.g. applying of nitrates negates the need for naturally occurring humus. Chemicals inadvertently also kills more than the target, i.e. weedkillers also kill beneficial plants like clover, a natural way to return nitrogen back to the earth. Fungicides also kill natural mycelium in the soil, some of these assist root hairs in their uptake of nutrients.
Livestock reinvigorate the soil; the preservation of the ability of a rotation to include livestock should be protected and promoted.
1 Water availability, a humus rich fertile soil will hold a lot more water than one stripped of life.
2 Marine environment will also suffer from loss of livestock, as run off will be greater through lack of natural binding.
3 The science base needs to be reality based, alongside all the interconnectivity of real life not in the laboratory under controlled conditions that cannot be replicated in the outer environment. Nor is there any sustainability than scientists thinking farmers can be 'clean'. Soil is not 'dirt' and it can and always has got everywhere, without causing too many problems.
No treatments should be compulsory for the whole country, if you treat everything, you lose your inherent reference point.
Risk analysis should always be unbiased, never just one professional bodies' pet theory.
Vets should not be considered independent 'experts', the same should be said of any professional body.
Farmers should have routine independent health checks. Plus the same organisation which sells or licenses a product should never be associated with investigating an adverse reaction claim. They are the 'canaries down the mine' when it comes to the effects of chemicals, front line users, therefore should be monitored. Cancers, diabetes and mental health conditions to name but a few listed in HSE Guidance note MS 17 and in Organophosphates and Health. Editors Lakshman Karalliedde, Stanley Feldman, John Henry, Timothy Marrs. Published by Imperial College Press ISBN 1860942709. This book should be widely distributed to GPs and hospitals.
A more holistic view should be taken of science generally, never forgetting the natural and immensely intricate symbiosis that has taken millennia to develop.
4 Provisions of training should also be based in practical learning in farm situations, with more bias on observation, which should override the textbook, because everything is variable and should never be shoe horned to fit a scientist's vested point of view.
5. Trade barriers should be in place to protect our agriculture, this is human fuel and as such should be treated with the greatest reverence. We should protect our natural bounty of inheritance against all the odds, it is our collective biggest treasure. Ours is a temperate climate historically, good at livestock with breeds that have furnished the world. That base is of world importance and should be maintained.
6. The way in which land is farmed and managed. Small farms should be encouraged. They can be very biodiverse thus protecting and saving reservoirs of species that the supermarket/mass supplies have to lose. Most importantly they provide a practical skills and knowledge reservoir.
We are experiencing a polarisation of consumers into the mass market where it is all about price and 'delicatessen' where people are prepared to pay for local environmentally produced foods, which can protect all the above. Local food networks are completely sustainable and should be encouraged.
Defra as it stands at the moment can help to oversee most of the above, however I'm not sure about the Food Standards Agency [FSA] which, through the arm of its Meat Hygiene Agency [MHA], has a lot of legislative control in abattoirs. There should be a separate agency to oversee the responsibilities for pharmaceutical material, after all the FSA is supposedly a food agency.
If required I can substantiate all of the above with evidence.