Plenary Session IV: The One Health Approach as a Powerful Means of Sustaining Food Production
Chaired by Michael J. Manfredo
Alexander Kekulé discussed the 15 cases of renal failure that occurred in North Germany in May 2011. They were caused by an unusual e. coli bacterium. Vegetables and salads were suspected in this, the largest outbreak of HUS/EHEC syndrome in history. Next, Spanish cucumbers were implicated, and Russia took the step of banning the import of vegetables from the EU. Spain lost €200 million in sales of produce. Subsequently, bean sprouts were blamed. However, EHEC O104:H4 was of human origin. It produces deadly Shiga toxin and is resistant to many antibiotics. There were 53 deaths in Germany and one in Sweden. Eventually, the culprit was found to be fenugreek seeds from Egypt, but the bacterium was not found in Egypt at the producer's premises. The upshot was that a food-borne epidemic could not be stopped, even with the highest standards of medical response available in the world. It proved hard for doctors to recognise. One lesson is that the fight against diseases begins in the poorest and most remote places in the world. Another is that a global early warning system for infectious diseases is needed.
Ulrich Sperling argued that healthy animals are essential to sustainable food production. The major food companies consider food safety to be a pre-competitive issue. Eighty per cent of livestock diseases are transmissible with water of feet. In order to protect the health of livestock, a healthy wildlife is also needed. Most of the 68 per cent of human pathogens that are zoonotic are transmitted through food. It is calculated that 700,000 livestock units are lost to disease every year, according to official reports. However, under-reporting may be so great that the real figure is between ten and one thousand times greater. Moreover, the figure is set to increase. Demand for protein, intensified production, trade and climate change all combine to increase the risks. Trade is growing faster than production, and that is growing fast, especially of chickens. There is a lower growth in the number of livestock veterinary medical personnel. China produces 78 million tonnes of meat a year and the industry is growing there at 4.8 per cent per annum. Scientists, industry, regulators and consumers need to interact, and in fact they come together in the TAFS forum. This deals with in risk assessment, early response and management issues.
Marco Ferroni argued that we need sustainably accelerated productivity growth in agriculture. Health and agricultural policies are not sufficiently compatible. Sustainability must be related to One Health policies. Activities are very sectoral, but issues and benefits spin over into other sectors. One Health calls for renewed growth in agricultural productivity. There have been food price riots caused because the growth in supply has been less than that in demand. In fact, we live in an era of unprecedented growth in demand for food. Growth in income is the main culprit. Malthusian catastrophe has not yet occurred, but more growth in production is needed. This is a long-term structural problem. Growth needs research and development, investment, technical progress and sustainability. A huge scope exists to cut waste and raise the efficiency of land and water usage.
Maged Younes suggested that we need a new strategy in developing countries, and one that goes beyond charity. Food availability and safety, nutrition and environmental impact need to be taken into account. Will pesticide and growth hormone usage restrict the ability of developing countries to export their produce? We must also address the socio-cultural aspects of dietary choice. More than 200 diseases are spread through food. Bad food and food shortage lead to the nutrition-infection complex.
Berhe Tekola discussed social equity and the sustainability of natural resources. The One Health initiative is now part of the vision at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. EMPRES is the emergency prevention system and it provides early warning across the entire food chain. In 2008, 21 billion food animals were produced to feed over 6 billion people. By 2020 demand will increase by 50 per cent. Greater efficiency in food production must be combined with safety. GLEWS is the global early warning system for animal disease. Moreover EMPRES has a global data base. FAO combines with WHO and OIE to form a tripartite approach to One Health. Risk prevention and disease management priorities have been set.