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The majority of antibiotics sold each year in the U.S. are used to treat livestock, rather than humans. (File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)
The majority of antibiotics sold each year in the U.S. are used to treat livestock, rather than humans. (File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)

In the budget President Obama is sending to Congress he’s asking for more than a billion dollars to combat antibiotic resistance, and some of that money would focus on animal agriculture.

Antibiotic resistance can make common medications ineffective, meaning sick people don’t get better and doctors have fewer options to treat bacterial infections.  

Among the President’s initiatives to stall this growing problem, Obama proposes sending the Agriculture Department $77 million to find ways to reduce use of antibiotics on the farm. The budget proposal nearly quadruples the current funding designated for such research, according to the White House.

A global glut of wheat is keeping prices low for farmers. (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center/Flickr)
A global glut of wheat is keeping prices low for farmers. (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center/Flickr)

2014 brought with it an abundance of grain for Midwest farmers. And it doesn’t look likely to change in 2015. But while farmers wait for a rebound, the new year could bring substantive policy change.

Great Plains farmers are unlikely to see relief in 2015 from sluggish commodity crop prices, according to Brian Kuehl, director of federal affairs with K-Coe Isom, one of the country’s largest agricultural consulting firms. Kuehl spoke at an economic forecast event in Greeley, Colo.

A rebound from drought in much of the U.S., and bumper crops in other parts of the world, have caused a grain glut that has pushed down prices for corn, wheat and soybeans. Farmers are coming off a couple seasons of some of the highest corn prices in years.

Food certified as 'Non-GMO' accounts for billions of dollars in annual sales. (File: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)
Food certified as 'Non-GMO' accounts for billions of dollars in annual sales. (File: Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media)

While reporting my story about how foods get labeled as not containing genetically modified ingredients, I interviewed Ken Ross, the CEO of Global ID. Although he didn’t make it into the final story, he said something that stuck with me.

Global ID is the parent company of FoodChain ID, one of the companies that traces ingredients to determine whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

I was surprised when Ross explained that genetic testing is only a small part of the work that goes into certifying a product as “Non-GMO.” Partly, that’s because often a little investigative work can reveal that an item couldn’t possibly contain a GMO, and that makes expensive and laborious genetic testing unnecessary. But it’s also because sometimes a genetic test wouldn’t reveal the GMO anyway. Ross says processing often degrades an ingredient to the point of making its DNA undetectable.

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