by Marion Nestle
Aug 28 2009

Antibiotics in farm animals: the fight is on

I served as a member of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production which issued its final report in April 2008.  Our most important recommendation: reduce the widespread use of antibiotics as growth promoters and as a routine method of preventing infections.  Why?  Because of increasing evidence of human resistance to the kinds of antibiotics used in farm animal production and to related antibiotics.

You think everyone involved in production of farm animals understands the dangers of continued overuse of these drugs?  Not a chance.  A coalition of 20 meat producing groups has asked Congress not to restrict their use of antibiotics.  The American Meat Institute has issued a statement condemning our report.  The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has done even more.  It just issued its own report taking on the Pew Commission’s antibiotic recommendations.  Why the ferocity and why now?  Congress has submitted a bill – the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009 (PAMTA) – that would restrict use of several antibiotics in farm animal production.

Ralph Loglisci, who was the Pew Commission’s communication director, has an excellent blog post dealing with the AVMA statement.  If you want to understand what all this is about, take a look at it.

While these debates continue, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are increasingly turning up in our food supply.  Tell your representatives to support PAMTA!

  • Janet Camp

    Is there no end to corporate greed (and the shareholders thereof)? The authors of the vet report should be ashamed as well. It all sounds so much like Big Tobacco pleading that there really is no evidence that smoking causes health problems. And then there is the cacophony on the right screaming “nanny state” every time anything that benefits public health is suggested. I despair (again).

  • Mary Dotson

    The antibiotics injected in cows and then there manure is used on plants…would antibiotics & steroids be absorbed into the plants?

  • Russell Stewart

    @ Janet: True corporate greed is knowing what IS healthy for your consumer; no matter how transparent you become, you make even more money. Lying and killing your consumer: idiocy.

  • Matt

    I would think that most antibiotics are too chemically-fragile to stick around long enough to get absorbed into plants, but triclosan (the omnipresent soap antibiotic) has been shown to pass through water treatment plants, deposit in agricultural soils and influence the microbial communities therein.

  • Cathy Richards

    Yes, plants can take up the antibiotics that are given to animals via the animals’ manure.

    Scared yet? We sure should be.

  • Sam

    This nonsense just never stops because so many people only care about the immediate bottom line, and that is quick cattle growth that is not a downer so they can sell it. This reminds me very much of the ongoing battle with gmo seeds and plants.

    Just like with people you are what you eat, I would imagine cattle or what they eat and people eat the cattle. A chain.

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