We are engineering our demise with GMOs, Confined Animal Feed Operations, and antibiotics.
Research shows that when you eat the GMO food grown with Bacillus thuringiensis genes in their tissues, the genes are actually leaching out of the genetically modified plant into your body. They enter your gut in free form. Your gut bacteria pick them up.
Now bacteria in your gut become resistant to an antibiotic that could save your life, and they can begin making Bt pesticide!
You now can die of an ampicillin-resistant infection from your own genetically modified bacteria, even if you never took ampicillin.
DNA Pollution May Be Spawning Killer Microbes
But the rapid rise of bacterial genes for drug resistance stems from more than lucky mutation, Levy adds. The vast majority of these genes show a complexity that could have been achieved only over millions of years. Rather than rising anew in each species, the genes spread via the microbial equivalent of sexual promiscuity. Bacteria swap genes, not only among their own kind but also between widely divergent species, Levy explains. Bacteria can even scavenge the naked DNA that spills from their dead compatriots out into the environment.The result is a microbial arms-smuggling network with a global reach. Over the past 50 years, virtually every known kind of disease-causing bacterium has acquired genes to survive some or all of the drugs that once proved effective against it.
the antibiotic-drenched environment of commercial livestock operations is prime ground for such transfer. “You’ve got the genes encoding for resistance in the soil beneath these operations,” he says, “and we know that the majority of the antibiotics animals consume get excreted intact.” In other words, the antibiotics fuel the rise of resistant bacteria both in the animals’ guts and in the dirt beneath their hooves, with ample opportunity for cross-contamination.
A 2001 study by University of Illinois microbiologist Roderick Mackie documented this flow. When he looked for tetracycline resistance genes in groundwater downstream from pig farms, he also found the genes in local soil organisms like Microbacterium and Pseudomonas, which normally do not contain them. Since then, Mackie has found that soil bacteria around conventional pig farms, which use antibiotics, carry 100 to 1,000 times more resistance genes than do the same bacteria around organic farms.
“These animal operations are real hot spots,” he says. “They’re glowing red in the concentrations and intensity of these genes.” More worrisome, perhaps, is that Mackie pulled more resistance genes from his deepest test wells, suggesting that the genes percolated down toward the drinking water supplies used by surrounding communities.
An even more direct conduit into the environment may be the common practice of irrigating fields with wastewater from livestock lagoons. About three years ago, David Graham, a University of Kansas environmental engineer, was puzzled in the fall by a dramatic spike in resistance genes in a pond on a Kansas feedlot he was studying. “We didn’t know what was going on until I talked with a large-animal researcher,” he recalls. At the end of the summer, feedlots receive newly weaned calves from outlying ranches. To prevent the young animals from importing infections, the feedlot operators were giving them five-day “shock doses” of antibiotics. “Their attitude had been, cows are big animals, they’re pretty tough, so you give them 10 times what they need,” Graham says.
The operators cut back on the drugs when Graham showed them that they were coating the next season’s alfalfa crop with highly drug-resistant bacteria. “Essentially, they were feeding resistance genes back to their animals,” Graham says. “Once they realized that, they started being much more conscious. They still used antibiotics, but more discriminately.”
Fertilizer derived from human sewage may contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes. “We’ve done a good job designing our treatment plants to reduce conventional contaminants,” he says. “Unfortunately, no one has been thinking of DNA as a contaminant.” In fact, sewage treatment methods used at the country’s 18,000-odd wastewater plants could actually affect the resistance genes that enter their systems.