Do You Support the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009?

| 8/3/2009 1:43:50 PM

Tags: question to readers, industrial agriculture, food and agricultural policy,

Antibiotic Resistance

For decades, we’ve relied on antibiotics to treat infection. In a scary turn of events, however, we’re finding that when used improperly, these drugs are ineffective or can even worsen the problem by creating “superbugs” — bacteria that have become antibiotic-resistant. 

Probably the most egregious example of improper antibiotic use comes from the livestock industry. Some 70 percent of total antibiotic use occurs in the livestock industry to speed growth and ward off disease, and some in the medical community are warning that we’re headed for disaster. Antibiotics are routinely used whether the animals are sick or not — breaking the first and most important rule of protecting antibiotic efficacy. 

Enter Rep. Louise Slaughter’s H.R. 1549/S.619: The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009. The bill is designed to prevent the agricultural use of antibiotics important to human health unless the animals are sick. 

Livestock organizations such as the United States Cattlemen’s Association state that if passed, American producers could no longer compete with foreign markets and our meat would have to be imported. Opponents claim that at the very least, meat prices would skyrocket to offset the increased costs experienced by producers. 

Supporters of the bill maintain that antibiotic resistance adds millions to healthcare costs — $4 to $5 billion per year, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. The group also states that 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths are caused by food contaminated by dangerous pathogens and bacteria such as Salmonella and E. Coli each year, and these bugs are becoming increasingly antibiotic-resistant. 

laura _1
8/7/2009 12:40:17 PM

We need to change the way the industrial meat producers do business. Antibiotics are for sick people and sick animals not for routine use. Feeding them stuff their bodies weren't meant to have makes them weak then overcrowding in mass feedlots makes diseases spread easily. Let them live naturally until their last moments. Inspect the cattle before slaughter and treat any animals that are sick. Waiting for a few to recover before their slaughtering is safer than having contamination get in the meat supply.

8/6/2009 11:38:49 PM

I absolutely support the legislation to prevent the use of antibiotics routinely on farm animals. I personally am careful to avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics and do not care to ingest them in my food supply.

t brandt
8/6/2009 10:21:47 PM

BTW- to answer Holly's question: cattle are given estrogen as "growth hormone", but there's more natural estrogen in a serving of potatoes than in a serving of store-bought beef. People are fatter today because they eat more carbs. It's been shown that a hi protein/low carb diet gives better weight control than a calorie restriction/lo fat diet.

t brandt
8/6/2009 10:09:25 PM

This is just another example of govt meddling in our lives without scientific evidence to support their position: a)Animal pathogens generally are not pathogens to humans, so we don't have to worry about resistance developing in animals from antibiotic use. b)Antibiotic concentrations in meat eaten by humans are negligible, therefore, have no effect on us. c)Use of antibiotics reduce the spread of existing disease among animals in the crowded feed lots: they do not "cause" infection. d)Use of antibiotics in feed lots helps increase productivity, thereby decreasing the amount of land needed to feed the human population. That saves habitat, loss of which is the number one problem facing the environment. -Timothy Brandt MD

8/6/2009 11:35:01 AM

I'm with farm girl. Cattle need grass, hay and such not corn and sawdust. At our house we eat locally produced meat and poultry, no hormones and few antibiotics. My father-in-law was a Vet and he used to eat nearly raw meat on occasion saying that the ONLY way to prevent getting sick by some of these bugs was through natural immunity, never saw him sick a day. I'm on the side of elliminating antibiotics unless the animal is sick, quarenteen the animal and find the cause. In other words, proper, sensible husbandry. And I don't see us running out of beef in the near future in the US, good grazing ground and water maybe, but that is a question for another day.

8/6/2009 8:33:01 AM

Looks like I am way late with this comment but I just finished reading a book about the development of penicillin and the thought of going back to preantibiotic days is frightening. In those days a scratch form a thorn of a rose bush did and could end up killing you. Going back to that or something similar far outways government getting involved. It is a matter of life and death.

farm girl
8/6/2009 7:29:20 AM

Cattle are ruminent animals - meaning their natural diet is grass. Cattle get sick when forced to eat an unnatural diet of corn in confinement feed yards. Consumers should seek out and consume LOCALLY raised and humanely treated grass-fed beef. USDA's rules for grass-fed beef has so many loopholes that industrial farms and cattle feeders use these loopholes to mislead consumers, allowing them to claim grain-fed cattle to be grass-fed when only a small part of their diet might be hay. Support your local farmers!

8/5/2009 11:32:31 PM

Just because the preventative use of antibiotics will be outlawed does NOT mean that any rearing practices at CAFO's will change. They're not going to give the animals more space or different feed or organic remedies. They will wait until the animals are sick and THEN give them the antibiotics. Doesn't help anything until the way food animals are raised is changed.

8/5/2009 11:04:19 PM

Although I think raising livestock in conditions where antibiotics are necessary, or giving livestock antibiotics without committing any thought to the actual necessity and effects of antibiotics is a terrible idea, I do not support more government regulations of farming or the food industry. I am just as angry that the government thinks it can impose rules on the nation for our 'protection' as I am that people feed livestock antibiotics and lie about the 'safety' of such actions. I think, however, that it is more important for the individual to hold their food producers accountable rather than relying on the government to regulate everything for them. If this were a county or a state measure where I live, I'd support it, so long as it were very well written with narrow definitions. Until then, I want the federal government to keep their dirty paws out of my food.

holly jones_4
8/5/2009 9:51:35 PM

I have often wondered if growth hormones fed to animals can affect humans who eat the meat. Could this be a factor in our increased obesity? For the record, I think that if one has to give antibiotics routinely, one is mismanaging as well as abusing one's animals. I am with everyone who spoke against overcrowding and unnatural diet for herbivores.

8/5/2009 3:48:59 PM

I'm all for it! This is a great idea! The use of antibiotics in livestock production is just one more example of our industial food production and agricultural systems placing placing their desire for short-term profit ahead of the public's need for long-term good health. If we did not produce our meat in industial feed lots, or cramped pens and cages, with cattle standing knee deep in manure eating corn instead of grass, or chickens in cramped cages essentially turned into egg laying machines, or grossly deformed parodies of chickens with breasts and upper bodies so disproportionately large that their legs often break... if we did not do these things in the name of cheap protein, then: 1) We would pay more for meat, and we would use it more sparingly. Most of the world's people do not eat meat every day... but guess what? They would if they could. 2) We could produce meat in a much more humane way. Hopefully in a way that is beneficial to the environment. (Read about Joel Salatin and how he uses free range animals to "grow grass.") 3) Free range animals choosing their own food that they have selected for over eons of evolution would eliminate the need for antibiotics. We need to treat animals as animals, and not some sort of mechanized/optimized low-cost protein product.

carolee carpenter jandreau_2
8/5/2009 3:27:48 PM

I think this is a great idea. If the animals were raised in a humane way to start with instead of standing around in their own feces you wouldn't need the antibiotics to start with. God only knows how antibiotics and growth hormones have contributed to disease and reactions in us all. Saying meat will cost so much more is just another scare tactic used by the special interest groups to keep the status quo. I hope it passes.

8/5/2009 2:27:25 PM

This is FANTASTIC!! It is ridiculous how we raise animals now, feeding them foods they wouldn't normally eat (corn & wheat) and then pumping them full of antibiotics because their bodies react violently to the foreign food. I don't understand how this would cause an increase in cost, either. Farmer's wouldn't have to buy as many pharmaceuticals and it seems to me (although not a farmer) that grazing animals costs less then buying feed which eventually costs more because of the animals related ill health. For thousands of years people raised animals without chemicals, *better living through chemicals* has only proven to be better for those whose pockets are filled and can afford to buy natural organic and free range products.

8/5/2009 2:13:05 PM

Although I do not want to buy foreign meats, antibiotics and hormones are responsible for certain neurolical conditions as well as cancer and immune system disorders. The use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock must be controlled, but not necessarily outlawed.

8/5/2009 1:01:47 PM

It's a proven fact antibiotic use in the foodchain is taking its toll already. Plant based 'antibiotics' and 'immune boosters' are much safer. Why not run trials on golden seal and echinecia?

bruce gilliam_3
8/5/2009 12:31:57 PM

I think it is a terrible idea. There are way too many regulations on the agriculture industry already. Free markets must have some controls but they must be at the local level. We give way too much power to the federal government. They are supposed to stay out of our way not get in the way every moment. Eastern European markets were destroyed because of too strong central control.

8/5/2009 11:58:30 AM

I believe that this is a great measure. If we can stop the inhumane and unhealthy meat industry practices it helps everyone. Other countries have legal bans against some of the practices that we use on our meat here in the U.S. and with the quality of our meat as compared to that of other nations, I would much rather import our meat. Ideally everyone would buy their meat from local, organic, humane farmers but we should still stop industrial farming now. The use of these antibiotics and farming techniques hurts both the animals and us. Don't stop with just antibiotics, continue to stop all industrial farming which destroys the environment and our health. Support local farmers who practice proper technique :). Also as has been stated below, Americans eat too much meat anyway and a higher price would reflect the frequency at which meat should be healthy a side dish, not the main meal.

carol confer-feldkamp_2
8/5/2009 11:45:58 AM

The use of antibiotics on food animals and dairy animals has more than one downside. It remains in the meat or is in dairy products derived from the treated animals. Humans consume the antibiotics right along with the product, causing our bodies to build up an immunity to the antibiotic. When we do get sick and need RX, our bodies don't respond to them. Antibiotics also destroy our body's natural bacteria which we need for proper bodily functions. Excessive use of antibiotics promotes yeast infections for just this reason. Long term we end up being sickly and don't know why. If we have to pay a little more for these products because it costs the farmers a little more to produce them, so be it. We end up spending it on medical care anyway, and are doing harm to our bodies.

hazel watson_2
8/5/2009 10:19:36 AM

I'm not sure how difficult it would be for farmers to change their inhumane and sick-making methods of raising animals to sustainable, humane and healthy, or how long it would take if they really made an effort. However, I certainly agree that feeding antibiotics to animals raised for human food is remarkably unhealthy, both for the animals and the humans who consume their products (meat, eggs, milk, etc.) What I have seen during my own lifetime is scary. I see a nonending downward spiral of declining health in humans due to the continual destruction of natural foods by using not only antibiotics to keep overcrowded unhealthy animals from actually getting sick (antibiotics don't make them healthy!), but also with artificial fertilizers that are depleting the earth and causing a decline in the food value of fruits and vegetables.

ken hall
8/5/2009 8:43:56 AM

Back in the 1980's I raised grass fed beef and dairy replacements whilst working full time at conventional employment. I was astounded at the ease with which a "farmer" could obtain antibiotics and injection paraphernalia at the local farm supply stores whilst human drug abusers were being jailed for the possession of such. I have not been involved with active farming since 1987 but it appears the availability of antibiotics to farmers has increased. My 50 to 75 animals were pastured on about 75 acres of relatively lush meadow. The concern by so called "producers" of increased cost to the consumer if they are forced to raise their animals more humanely and eliminate the majority of antibiotic use is hypocritical. What their real fear is that if the cost of meat reflected it's real value consumers would rationally eat much less thereby vastly reducing the profits of these greedy bastards.

8/4/2009 3:23:46 PM

I am an ER nurse who has battled MRSA after a surgery. I am totally against antibiotics for cattle. I daily see the effects of too much medication use in Americans; the overuse of meds is putting us at grave risk. It is also inhumane to raise animals in the conditions that require daily antibiotic doses. We may not be paying a high price now for meat due to these practices but no one is figuring in the cost to health care as a result. Healthy food is the cure all for the high cost of health care. Many of the diseases that Americans battle now are directly related to the atrocious diets that we consume; poor meat, HFCS, partially hydrogenated oils. Few Americans realize that Type 2 Diabetes will disappear if you change your diet and exercise daily. Yet the costs of this and the rampant heart disease in this country is why we are having vicious debates over health care costs.

jeanine gurley
8/3/2009 7:53:01 PM

I do not believe it is possible to raise animals in an environment where they eat, sleep, defecate and urinate all in the same spot without continually giving them antibiotics. Of course, anyone who reads Mother Earth News knows that current commercial methods for raising animals for consumption are not sustainable. If we stop giving the animals regular doses of antibiotics now we will have huge problems now. If we don’t we will have huge problems later with lots of smaller problems now. The only answer that I can come up with is to change the way we think as a culture. Eat less meat, expect to pay more for it, and raise it using sustainable methods. Unfortunately our culture demands Two Burgers for Two Dollars and they want it now mister!

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!