Former FDA Commissioner Donald Kennedy makes a pitch in the New York Times for banning the routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock. The piece does a nice job of sketching out the details about how agribusiness has used its political pull to keep this practice legal, despite the clear menace posed to public health:
Agribusiness argues — as it has for 30 years — that livestock need to be given antibiotics to help them grow properly and keep them free of disease. But consider what has happened in Denmark since the late 1990s, when that country banned the use of antibiotics in farm animals except for therapeutic purposes. The reservoir of resistant bacteria in Danish livestock shrank considerably, a World Health Organization report found. And although some animals lost weight, and some developed infections that needed to be treated with antimicrobial drugs, the benefits of the rule exceeded those costs.
It’s 30 years late, but Congress should now pass the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which would ban industrial farms from using seven classes of antibiotics that are important to human health unless animals or herds are ill, or pharmaceutical companies can prove the drugs’ use in livestock does not harm human health.
If this decision were based purely on its merits, the practice would be banned overnight. Unfortunately, animal agribusiness is as politically powerful as ever, and it won’t cede ground on this matter without a fight. Link.