Monday, October 26, 2015

Consumers are the rising voice in the agriculture antibiotic fight, states Washington Post editorial

"After decades of inaction, concern about the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is finally gaining traction, not because of federal regulations or congressional legislation, but because smart people around the nation are listening to consumers and thinking creatively about new ways of doing things," states The Washington Post editorial board. "For decades, the agriculture industry has used antibiotics in feed and water to help farm animals grow faster and larger on the same amount of feed and to prevent disease in a whole flock or herd. It is entirely proper to give antibiotics to sick animals. But now there is real movement away from the practice of using them for growth promotion, and the wisdom of using the drugs for prevention is being questioned." (Graphic from the health and environmental report Chain Reaction)

The board cites two recent actions as showing a positive trend toward eliminating antibiotic use. The first is a law signed earlier this month by California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) that "will impose restrictions on the use of farm antibiotics starting in 2018," states the editorial. "The law says that antibiotics important in human medicine cannot be used for growth promotion in animals, and it gives veterinarians an important role in decisions about when to use them."

"The law permits the use of antibiotics for prevention when there is an 'elevated risk' of disease spreading, but it prohibits the use of these drugs 'in a regular pattern,'" states the editorial. "What’s impressive about the California example is that the law came about as a result of cooperation among representatives of public health, medicine, government, academia and agriculture. The law also includes civil penalties for violations. It will be important to see how food producers adapt; ideally they will create methods for animal husbandry without antibiotics that could be applied nationwide."

The second action was by Subway, which announced that beginning next year it will "start serving chicken and turkey raised without antibiotics in all of its 27,000-plus outlets in this country," states the editorial. "The company pledged to phase out antibiotic use in pork and beef within a decade. The company made no secret that it was responding to consumer desires, and it thus joins several other major food producers, including Tyson Foods and McDonald’s, in restricting antibiotic use. The market is speaking—and companies are listening." (Read more)

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