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Farm rules

(article, Culinate staff)

Sure, maybe you snickered at politician Newt Gingrich's recent proposal to make children work as janitors at their own schools. But on America's farms, kids actually do a lot of work, and recent proposed federal legislation to restrict kids from working with pesticides and heavy machinery has become controversial. On the one hand, the feds are trying to protect kids; on the other hand, many argue that farmwork is good for kids.

Meanwhile, whistleblower-suppression laws — aka "ag-gag" laws — are back in the news. Oh, you thought they died last summer? Nope; a bill to criminalize photography and video documentation of factory farms and animal abuse has been reintroduced in Florida, and the animal-rights activists at Farm Sanctuary think that bills may be reintroduced in Iowa, Minnesota, and New York as well.

And, late in December, the FDA officially gave up the fight to limit the use of antibiotics in animal feed. Sadly, while the dangers of routine antibiotic administration to livestock are well known — chiefly, the evolution of drug-resistant superbugs such as MRSA — the FDA, which had declared its intention to deal with the antibiotics problem way back in 1977, backed away from its original commitment to tackling the problem.

On the other hand, in early January the FDA did limit the use of cephalosporins, a class of antibiotics, to treat livestock.

Still want to eat meat, but want to avoid antibiotics? Certain seals — USDA Certified Organic, American Grassfed Certified, Animal Welfare Approved, and Certified Humane — mean that antibiotics weren't routinely used in raising animals.