The news that the Department of Defense had found a woman in Pennsylvania with a strain of E. coli carrying the gene mcr-1, the first time plasmid-mediated resistance to colistin (MCR) has been found in the United States, should have brought calls to action, because MCR creates resistance against colistin, a powerful antibiotic seldom prescribed due to side effects that remains effective as a last resort.

Instead it brought political posturing. Democratic Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (NY-25) immediately demonized farmers and drug companies - again.

“I have been sounding the alarm for years, and now, what we've been dreading has happened. We have an antibiotic-resistant superbug that can't be killed by any known drug. We need swift, aggressive, global action to stop this in its tracks—now. That starts with passing and implementing one of my top priorities, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. If we don’t eliminate the unnecessary and unsafe practice of using 80 percent of our antibiotics to treat livestock at sub-therapeutic levels, we’ll never get out ahead of this growing public health crisis. It’s time to break the stranglehold the pharmaceutical industry and corporate agriculture have on our public health policy, and that starts with passing my bill.”

That's not science, it's an appeal to people who think Michael Pollan knows what he is talking about. Her effort in this has long been praised by partisan anti-science groups like Union of Concerned Scientists and other environmental groups totaling near $1 billion in annual revenue.

During election season, teeing off on companies is common strategy - politicians routinely play the anti-corporation card while setting up PACs to take their donations - and companies are so shell-shocked by the inability of their corporate communications groups to deal with the public they routinely apologize for being in business at all. But it's breathtakingly galling to blame farmers for this. And it is farmers, "corporate agriculture" is a linguistic red herring that no one who knows anything about agriculture falls for, because 97 percent of farms are family owned.

Why else is this just politics? MRC confers resistance to colistin, which is not used in animals in the United States, noted Maryn McKenna long before this happened. A microbiologist like Rep. Slaughter should really know better.

Currently, farmers self-regulate, and seem to have been doing just fine since they do not use colistin, but environmental critics have begun to insist self-regulation is bad - except when it comes to organic farmers, who they insist should not be under normal USDA control and should continue to have standards created by organic food lobbyists.

I am not saying her goal is wrong, I think most agree antibiotics should be used as little as possible, but her contention that antibiotics should only be used after a lot of animals are dead is going to raise the price of food so high it will make the cost of living extreme for poor people. That is not progress. And it's certainly not humane treatment of animals. Slaughter would know that if she bothered to stop creating a "corporate agriculture" straw man and visited a working farm.