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Mark Buchanan

Big Agriculture Is Breeding a Worldwide Health Crisis

The widespread use of antifungals in food production is hastening an increase in drug-resistant infections, putting millions of people at risk.

At what price?

At what price?

Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

On the surface, our modern system of food production looks efficient: It produces plenty of food and seems highly innovative. But it also encourages people to eat unhealthy sugars and fats, while fully one-third of all food produced is lost or goes to waste. Industrial agriculture is defiling lakes and rivers with chemical runoff and depleting irreplaceable fertile topsoils.

The food and agriculture industries are pretty good at keeping these and other costs hidden from public view. But that may get harder if people start dying in large numbers, which isn’t far-fetched, according to the United Nations. Health officials around the world are struggling with the explosive rise of deadly drug-resistant strains of the fungus Candida auris, which prey on people with weakened immune systems. Worryingly, their emergence may be tied to indiscriminate use of fungicides in agriculture and food production.