E. coli Happens

This story in the San Francisco Chronicle just shows the insanity of the conventional wisdom these days advanced by greens and anti-corporate farmers. They blame big agriculture for E. coli problems and some propose foolish laws and regulations that will simply create other problems.

Despite claims to the contrary, profits don’t cause microbes. And it’s not big “industry” farming that is the culprit. Small farms and family farmers can have just as much difficulty—if not more–eliminating pathogens.

E. coli just happens. And you can’t stop it. Deer, “wild” pigs, mountain lions, every kind of mouse, rat, ground squirrel, and whatever wild animal can carry virulent microbes. Same with irrigation water. Same with birds flying over the fields. And the barren buffer strips that some have proposed to keep these animals away don’t halt anything; they simply lead to water pollution.

Unfortunately, such foolish “wisdom” undermines good conservation efforts. For example, it discourages conservation at California vineyards. In the past, some have gone out of their way to use tail ponds to collect irrigation and rain water–and any dissolved pollutants–and then pump it back up hill for more irrigation. These tail ponds themselves become wetland habitats. Similarly, vineyards in the Temecula area, Viansa Winery, and others pioneered placing hawk roosting and nesting structures on their property to attract birds of prey to help control rodents, as well as placing nesting boxes for owls and falcons. Yet now the conventional “wisdom” is that such conservation efforts contribute E. Coli and should be dispensed with. In reality, such policies are surely more foolish than wise.

Photo: Escherichia coli bacterium, courtesy of the CDC Public Health Image Library.