Antibiotic Use in Agriculture
It may come as news to many.
70 percent of the nation’s antibiotics are fed to farm animals. The problems that that can cause are serious.
When farmer, Russ Kremer got a boar jab in the knee, his leg ballooned to twice its size and he developed a strep infection.
Two months of multiple antibiotics didn’t help much and he came close to losing his life. That’s when doctors found that the boar had been fed low doses of penicillin, creating a strep infection that was resistant to antibiotics that had passed onto Kremer.
The practice puts many Americans at risk, even those who live far away from rural America. Animals fed antibiotics may grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections, reports ABC News, which can easily be passed to people.
Farmers generally give antibiotics to healthy animals to encourage faster growth. They are given to animals that are not healthy to heal skin, lung or blood infections, many which result from confined agriculture keeping many animals in one place, making infections more likely to spread.
Scientists believe that the use of about 28 million pounds of antibiotics in animal feed last year in the U.S. has led to a growing number of drug-resistant infections that kill about 65,000 Americans, more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
Worldwide the use of antibiotics in animal feed is estimated to be about 50 percent.
Emerging Drug-Resistant Disease
MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant staph infection that now kills more Americans than AIDS, has been shown to be widespread in the U.S. pig herd—not surprising, given that factory-farmed pigs get doused daily with antibiotics.
Associated Press found in a six-month investigation that the rise in antibiotic use contributes to drug resistant forms of disease such as malaria, tuberculosis and staph. The CDC says the problem is an “urgent” one. Deputy FDA Commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein told Congress this summer that farmers need to stop the practice.
Besides antibiotic resistant infections, the germs from the animals can rub into farmworkers’ arms causing infections, and blow in the dust into lakes and river, and end up on the dinner table ate being sliced into meat. The FDA routinely finds drug resistant bacteria in meat sold in supermarkets and salmonella bacteria that is drug resistant, reports ABC News.
While Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has introduced a bill to ban the practice unless animals are sick there is push back from the pharmaceutical industry to the tune of about $135 million a year in lobbying dollars and another $70 million from agribusiness.
The FDA approved antibiotic use in animals in 1951 and today says it would take years of study to undo that approval.
As for farmer Kremer, he kicked his antibiotic habit on his farm and says he saves about $16,000 a year in vet bills, antibiotics and vaccinations. #