US Bill Would Ban Nontherapeutic Antibiotics in Livestock
A bill introduced by US Representative Louis Slaughter would change the way antibiotics are used on factory farms. The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act 2009 (PAMTA) would require the FDA to withdraw the use of seven classes of antibiotics on factory farms unless animals or herds of animals are sick. To date, forty representatives have co-authored the bill.
Banning the nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials was the number one recommendation of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, released over a year ago. Antimicrobials are substances that kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, protozoans, and viruses.
"Human antibiotics are routinely misused on factory farms to promote faster animal growth and compensate for crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions," said Robert Martin, a senior officer with the Pew Environment Group. "Medical experts agree that this practice directly contributes to a dramatic rise in antibiotic-resistant infections in people. We must reduce the use of antibiotics today to help preserve their effectiveness tomorrow."
While the bill only addresses antibiotics, Martin says that is a step in the right direction.
The House Rules Committee held a hearing on the bill in July in which Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D., principal deputy commission for the FDA, testified that the use of antimicrobials should be phased out for nontherapeutic purposes in livestock production. Using antibiotics for disease control and containment would not compromise food safety, he said.
Antibiotics are routinely used for growth enhancement, feed efficiency, and disease prevention. Seventy percent of all the antibiotics used in the United States are fed to livestock.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, pathogens and pharmaceutically active compounds in livestock manure can be transmitted to other animals and humans through the food and water. The production of fresh fruit and vegetables using manure or irrigating with wastewater could be mechanisms of pathogen transfer.
With human antibiotics being used in enormous quantities on the farm, they are becoming less effective in people. At the same time, few new antibiotics are entering the market to take the place of ineffective ones. The Food and Drug Administration last approved a new antibiotic for humans in 2003.
The seven classes of antibiotics that would be revoked from routine use include penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, lincosamides, streptogramins, aminoglycosides, sulfonamides and any other drug used to treat bacterial illness in people.
A coalition of 20 livestock organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), is opposing the bill, which they say will cause increased animal disease and death reports McAlester News Capital.
The AMVA has also questioned the scientific validly of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production report according to a Veterinary News article. A letter by AMVA CEO Dr. W. Ron DeHaven to the House and Senate accuses the Pew Commission of being biased and not inclusive of a significant number of academicians.
The Pew report was authored by 15 commission members, including eight academicians, a former Secretary of Agriculture, and a retired Assistant Surgeon General.
Over 350 organizations (LINK TO PAMTA ENDORSERS) have endorsed PAMTA, including, 115 health organizations, 140 environmental organizations, and nearly 100 religious, sustainable living, and animal protections organizations.
If you support this measure, you can send a message to your representatives here.