[Ip-health] BBC: Concerns grow over farm drugs used like 'sweets'

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed May 28 04:28:53 PDT 2014


28 May 2014 Last updated at 07:17 GMT

Concerns grow over farm drugs used like 'sweets'

By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News

The widespread use of antibiotics on farms without medical supervision has
been condemned at a meeting of the World Organisation for Animal Health

There are particular concerns about the US where authorities say it
contributes significantly to resistance.

There are also worries that a new US-EU trade deal will see a watering down
of tougher European laws on their use.

The OIE says it has tried to broker a compromise between the two regions.

But so far this has been unsuccessful.

It's estimated that 80% of the antibiotics purchased in the US are used on
farm animals.

The drugs are given as prophylactics to livestock to help them avoid
illnesses that are transmitted easily between beasts confined in
large-scale feed lots.


In Europe, the drugs on farms are more tightly controlled and their use as
a growth aid is banned.

Concerns have also been raised about the current negotiations between the
US and EU over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The aim of these talks is to reduce or remove trade barriers to boost
economic activity between the EU and US.


While the EU says that its consumer, health and environmental protection
regulations are "not negotiable", trade campaigners are worried that a deal
will see compromises - especially in the area of animal medicine.

"It is very clear in terms of industry interests on both sides of the
Atlantic, that they are interested in removing barriers to trade and
antibiotics are one of those key areas," said Shefali Sharma from the
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

"They are going to agree to a framework where industry is at the table and
the framework is going to be what is least restrictive on trade."

"That is what is really problematic about having food safety standards
being part of that equation."


Concern over the direction of these trade talks is higher on mainland
Europe, especially Germany, according to Shefali Sharma.

"This is a big issue, every day you are seeing new constituencies waking up
and saying we don't like the fact that there are a whole range of standards
being discussed behind closed doors that implicate every public concern
that we might think about," she said.

The scale of the threat from both human and animal was underlined at this
meeting by the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr
Margaret Chan, who warned that the world was headed to a "post-biotic" era.

"If you need a hip replacement, if you need a stent in your heart vessels,
no surgeon will operate on you. No one will provide treatment to cancer
patients without coverage of antibiotics," she said.

"I am not saying human health is more important than animal health, my
message is that we are very closely linked in this entire ecosystem."

In the UK, concerns have been
government funding cutbacks are hampering attempts to detect antibiotic
resistance on farms.

Last week a group of leading researchers, writing in the journal
called for the establishment of an independent global body to deal with the

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