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July 15, 2009

Congress considers banning antibiotics in livestock

The New York Times is reporting that Baltimore's own Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, now the principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, is pushing to tack onto the health bill in Congress a provision to restrict antibiotics in livestock.

Antibiotic is used commonly in livestock to promote growth and cut down on illnesses. But Sharfstein says the use in cows, pigs and chickens leads to treatment resistent bacteria in humans. Farmers shouldn't be able to use them without supervision from a veterinarian, he said.

There was a hearing yesterday on the proposal by Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., and chairwoman of the Rules Committee. Her measure would ban seven classes of antibiotics important to human health from being used in animals, according to the Times. Other antibiotics would be resticted to therapeutic uses and some prevention uses.

Prospects for the proposal weren't totally clear. Though some supporters, including the American Medical Association and the Pew Environment Group, say they are improving.

Seem like a good move?

AP Photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:57 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: News


long overdue move!!

it seems pew charitable trusts' ad campaign in the washington metro may have affected at least one person.

i'm for it, but if they do restrict antibiotics, we will be likely be looking at more expensive meat. antibiotics are often used to treat illnesses brought on/exacerbated by tight living conditions at industrial farms; antibiotic use is only the symptom of a greater problem.

but that's just my two cents.

Finally, a simple answer to a moral imperative!

Get rid of the antibiotics, food consumers want clean food, and antibiotics that work for PEOPLE.

It's a WIN WIN for everyone except the pharmaceutical industry. Watch out, they will be lobbying hard in Congress with their lies. Follow the $$$ trail, you will find the liars.

Lisaloo99 you are right on.

Small and large farmers and ranchers stand to lose from a bill like this, not to mention the animals themselves. Without access to antibiotics, the already cash strapped farmer would have to watch preventable deaths of animals. Pharmaceuticals are not the only losers!!

Meat will cost more without antibiotics? Does your calculation include the cost of treating people who are infected with resistant bacteria?

Check out the NY Times article and this quote from the article:

The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that as much as 70 percent of antibiotics used in the United States is given to healthy chickens, pigs and cattle to encourage their growth or to prevent illnesses.

The use of antibiotics for “purposes other than for the advancement of animal or human health should not be considered judicious use,” Dr. Sharfstein said in his written testimony. “Eliminating these uses will not compromise the safety of food.”

I don't think the idea is to deny antibiotics for sick animals, but rather to stop the use of antibiotics as a prophylactic measure by including it the feed of all animals. According to JHU researchers there is no net benefit to the industrial hog and poultry farms of such massive usage of antibiotics, but it's clear it spurs evolution of resistant bacteria. I think the winners here are the public, and the losers are pharmaceutical companies, but only short term. Long term having effecitve antibiotics is to their advantage as well, assuming they are human, mostly.

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About the bloggers
Tim WheelerTim Wheeler reports on the environment and Chesapeake Bay. A native of West Virginia, he has focused mainly on Maryland's environment since moving here in 1983. Along the way, he's crewed aboard a skipjack in the bay, canoed under city streets up the Jones Fall from the Inner Harbor, and gone deep underground in a western Maryland coal mine. He loves seafood, rambles in the country and good stories. He hopes to share some here.

Contributor Christy Zuccarini has been blogging about the local DIY craft scene for a year for She brings her pespective on all things handmade to B'More Green, where she will highlight projects you can do yourself as well as crafters who are integrating sustainable methods and materials.

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