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Big brother, in the field and barn

(article, Culinate staff)

And now, the latest on the political-industrial-medical-agricultural complex, from the New York Times: a story on agro-imperialism, and another on a vaccine for E. coli.

The first, which documents the Saudi Arabian government's attempts to grow food for its people in Africa, includes a succinct summation of the problems inherent in feeding the planet's ever-expanding population:

bq. There are basically two ways to increase the supply of food: find new fields to plant or invent ways to multiply what existing ones yield.

Saudi Arabia is trying out the former; many scientists have worked on the latter. There are, in brief, pros and cons to both.

The second story, about the recent development of a vaccine for cattle that could eradicate the dangerous E. coli strain known as O157:H7, sounds like a good idea — except that it does nothing to address the factory-farm living conditions that led to the development of the E. coli problem in the first place. And oh, yeah, the drugs — held up at several stages by the FDA and the USDA, neither of which wanted responsibility — are expensive:

bq. Even if the vaccines prove successful in the ambitious tests that are just getting under way, they face an uncertain future as farmers and feedlot owners worry about who will pick up the extra cost.