Posts Tagged ‘antibiotics’

cownoseNice editorial in the New York Times yesterday about progress with the government’s efforts to curb the use of antibiotics as a growth promotion tool in livestock. Sadly, I am one of the skeptics mentioned in the article.

First of all, you have to look at the economics. Commodity farmers use antibiotics because it is profitable to do so. Put antibiotics in the feed—animals grow faster (nobody yet knows why). More importantly, if you don’t put antibiotics in the feed, you will be competed out of business by those who do. This is the same dynamic as the doping problem in professional sports. If you can’t stop elite athletes from putting harmful illegal drugs into their own bodies to make money, how can we expect to stop conventional farmers from doing it to their livestock—especially with a voluntary labeling program?

(Just in case it is not clear—we do not put antibiotics or added hormones in our feed.)

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Seventy percent of the antibiotics sold in the US are fed to livestock. Surprisingly, most of these antibiotics are not to treat sick animals, or even to prevent them from getting sick. Industrial farms mostly use antibiotics to make animals grow faster. Nobody knows why this works, but it does. But this practice almost certainly contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, creating a threat to human health. (Note: we do not use any antibiotics at all on our animals.)

Last week, the FDA proposed a new rule saying certain antibiotics can no longer be used to promote growth. We don’t think this goes far enough. Farmers can still use antibiotics to prevent disease, so they can continue feeding antibiotics and simply claim it is to prevent disease. We think non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock should be phased out completely, as proposed by the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.

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