The FDA and the Obama administration have begun the process to initiate the banning of antibiotic use in US livestock. Antibiotics, ones regularly used by humans, are commonly added to the feed of conventionally raised, healthy chickens, cows, and pigs to encourage faster growth and prevent disease from spreading. The FDA and the administration, along with the American Medical Association and several expert scientists, are concerned that the rampant use of antibiotics in US food has and will continue to lead to the development of bacteria that are antibiotic resistant.
Many experts in both the science, medical and farming fields have raged for years about this practice. It is estimated that 70% of the pharmaceuticals consumed in America is given to healthy livestocka and poultry. Antibiotic-resistant, possibly dangerous super strains of bacteria, such as e.coli 0157, campylobacter, and salmonella, have emerged over the last decade as this practice has become more widespread.
But skeptical lawmakers debated the benefits of this bill Wednesday, along with - surprise! - lobbyists for the Pork and other self-interested groups. Illinois Republican John Shimkus believes that more science is needed before passing of a bill that would potentially have devastating economic impacts on the livestock industry. Several Republicans, along with agricultural lobbyists, oppose the bill, even though the CDC, the FDA, and officials from the Agriculture department believe that evidence is strong enough to indicate a possible health concern.
Use of antibiotics in livestock for growth purposes have already been banned in several European countries.
The FDA received a significant increase in funding and power under the Obama administration last summer. During the Bush administration, insufficient funding and a tendency to overlook safety issues by Congress contributed to a laxity of oversight. Dr. Margaret Hamburg, FDA commissioner under Obama, has stepped up the amount of inspections and punitive actions toward corporations since taking office last summer.
The use of antibiotics in livestock has been an issue of concern for several decades. The creation of resistant, super strains of bacteria, as well as just the effects of too much antibiotics, have always been of concern.
There's no doubt that there will be a financial impact on the livestock industry - conventional animal farms seek to grow and fatten up their livestock as quickly as possible. Scientists have discovered higher levels of bacteria in these animals as opposed to organically, free range livestock.
Perhaps this issue, concerning the public health of America, for once should not be about politics and money. Here's an idea - why not raise less livestock, thus encouraging a lesser consumption of animal protein, like our grandparents did?
But profits rule - as consumers, we should speak with our pocketbook and either limit our consumption of animal protein or purchase socially and environmentally conscious free range livestock and poultry. It may be more expensive, but eating a lesser portion will be healthier for all.