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Oregon Pushing to Limit Antibiotic Use On Farms

April 15, 2015

Antibiotics make farm animals fat. Farmers can feed animals antibiotics instead of food to make animals fatter faster in order to make more money from selling the meat. Problems with this beyond feeding animals antibiotics instead of food? We humans are losing our arsenal of antibiotics to treat human illness as the bacteria around farms, that spreads to people, become antibiotic resistant.

More than 70 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock and poultry—and not primarily to treat sick animals. Instead, factory farms often put antibiotics into the daily feed and water of healthy animals, to promote growth and prevent disease due to overcrowded and dirty conditions.

As a result, bacteria commonly present on farms are mutating into stronger, antibiotic-resistant strains, which in turn find their way to the human population through numerous pathways, including contaminated food, airborne dust blowing off farms, and water and soil polluted with contaminated feces.

“There is a near consensus among public health experts that the bulk antibiotics produced by [the animal pharmaceutical industry] are accelerating the approach of a post-antibiotics nightmare scenario, in which superbugs routinely emerge from our farms and wreak havoc on a human population living among the ruins of modern medicine,” Alexander Zaitchickwrote at Salon last year.

Those experts range from the World Health Organization and the Infectious Diseases Society of America to the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of which signed onto a 2011 letter stating that “the evidence is so strong of a link between misuse of antibiotics in food animals and human antibiotic resistance that FDA and Congress should be acting much more boldly and urgently to protect these vital drugs for human illness.”

The state of Oregon is trying to cut down on the use of antibiotics on farms to make animals gain weight.

Oregon’s House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources heard testimony on its bill last week, and the Senate Committee on Health Care will debate a similar proposal on Monday. The bills would only affect Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Out of Oregon’s 35,000 farms, just over 100 of them are CAFOs.

Opponents of the bills say such regulation should be left up to the federal government.

But federal efforts to address the problem have been week, watchdogs say.

As Oregon’s Statesman Journal reports:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has addressed a part of the issue and asked pharmaceutical companies to stop selling antibiotics to animal farms for the purpose of growth promotion. OSPIRG and Friends of Family Farms say this is a voluntary program and lacks teeth. It also does not address disease prevention, which they say masks poor animal husbandry practices and attempts to offset unsanitary conditions.

Meanwhile, the White House’s ‘National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria,’ released last week, was criticized as “a missed opportunity to take more aggressive action.”

 

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