Debate Rages on Antibiotic Use on Livestock

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In recent Congressional testimony, USDA Research Administrator Dr. Edward Knipling attempted to counter recent investigative reports regarding the dangers of antibiotic use on farm animals.

Last June, the FDA released a report claiming that heavy use of antibiotics in farm livestock was contributing to the creation of highly resistant diseases and infections. The heavy, and often unnecessary, use of antibiotics builds up a drug resistance in several infectious diseases, many of which could pose a threat to human health. In a December report, the FDA found the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in supermarket food across the country.

Responding to these fears, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-New York) recently introduced legislation that would limit the use of several classes of antibiotics on healthy animals and would limit the indiscriminate use of antibiotics on livestock.

Dr. Knipling’s testimony sought to allay fears of food infection. During his testimony, he admitted that there were problems with the use of antibiotics, but argued that “this is not as severe an issue as it might be otherwise portrayed.”

The National Pork Producers Council, heavily criticized in a recent Wall Street Journal article about antibiotics abuse, argued that claims of antibiotic misuse were not backed by sufficient scientific data. They also argued that data from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System indicated rates of antibiotic resistance have remained relatively stable for the past 15 years.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer