March 25, 2009
In a letter to Congress, the president of the American Farm Bureau said that a bill to ban the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics, introduced last week by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), would hurt the health of livestock and compromise food safety.
A Reuters News Agency report quoted the letter from Bob Stallman, who told Congress that Farm Bureau members “carefully, judiciously and according to label instructions” use antibiotics to treat, prevent and control disease in animals.
“Antibiotic use in animals does not pose a serious public health threat,” said Stallman, who urged lawmakers to oppose the bill. “Restricting access to these important tools will jeopardize animal health and compromise our ability to contribute to public health through food safety.” he added.
The “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act,” (PAMTA) “will seek the withdrawal of antibiotics important to human health from use on factory farms unless animals are sick,” says Slaughter. PAMTA amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to withdraw approvals of feed-additive use of seven specific classes of antibiotics.
Groups opposing PAMTA claim there is no evidence the use of antibiotics in animals is a harm to human health. Last year, alarmed by the increasing evidence of the transfer of resistant bacteria between animals and humans, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production in America recommended phasing out and banning the use of antimicrobials for nontherapeutic use.
“Passage of PAMTA is critical to keep antibiotics working for human health,” says the Union of Concerned Scientists. “In addition to averting the harmful effects of antibiotic overuse on human health, curtailing animal use of antibiotics will encourage producers to raise animals in better living conditions that are less conducive to disease.”