Natural Resources Defense Council

NRDC: President’s Executive Order, Science Advisors’ Report Sound Alarm on Antibiotic Resistance but Lack Needed Reforms for Curbing Livestock Drug Use

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Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

Top scientists highlight health risks from antibiotics abuse in animal agriculture, but weak recommendations are unlikely to change business as usual

WASHINGTON -- In response to a long awaited report and new executive actions to combat antibiotic resistance announced today by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), Mae Wu, health attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), issued the following statement:

“Today’s report from the President’s science advisors underscores the crisis we’re facing as bacteria become increasingly resistant to antibiotics,” said Wu.

“Unfortunately, much more follow through is needed from the Administration. Just as the administration is taking steps to deal with abuse of antibiotics in humans, it must take steps to curb the overuse of antibiotics in animals, which consume about 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States. Shying away from taking these needed steps will not yield the ‘substantial changes’ that PCAST says are necessary.”

Following is a statement by Dr. Carmen Cordova, NRDC microbiologist:

'The links between overuse of our life-saving drugs in industrial farms and the public health threats are clear as day. This means we can’t solve the crisis of antibiotic resistance unless animal agriculture is part of the solution.”

Background:

The new PCAST report confirms:

“Although knowledge in this area is still incomplete, it is clear that at least some drug-resistant pathogens have evolved under selective pressure from antibiotic use in agriculture and may have contributed significantly to resistance in clinical settings. A national strategy to reduce the emergence and incidence of antibiotic resistance must therefore include substantial changes in the use of antibiotics in agricultural settings, in order to preserve antibiotic utility in human medicine.” (p. 52)

These findings echo alarms raised by a wide array of public health organizations and associations. Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a first-ever Antibiotic Resistance Threats report, conservatively estimating that at least 23,000 Americans die each year from drug resistant infections. Both human and animal uses of antibiotics contribute to the problem. CDC confirmed the link between antibiotic use on industrial farms and the rise of antibiotic resistance, saying that there is “strong scientific evidence of a link between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans.” The agency also reported that “Up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.” The American Academy of Pediatrics, Infectious Disease Society of America and many others have sounded the alarm, stating that “overuse and misuse of important antibiotics in food animals must end, in order to protect human health.”

In 1977, FDA itself concluded that feeding animals low doses of certain antibiotics used in human medicine, namely, penicillin and tetracyclines, could promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria capable of infecting people, and posed a risk to human health. Despite this, FDA has failed to take meaningful action to curb the misuse of antibiotics on animals that are not sick for over 35 years.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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