Factory Farms Make Me Sick
Jul 31, 2014 05:03PM
By Jim Walsh
We have made tremendous gains in public health over recent generations, but those gains will be lost for our children and grandchildren if we don’t make significant change to our food production system immediately. Corporate factory farms, a staple of our current system, are not only threatening local waterways with cesspools of animal waste, but they are also threatening the effectiveness of lifesaving antibiotics. The Center for Disease Control reports that in the United States, 23,000 people die each year as a result of infections by resistant bacteria.
We’ve all heard that you shouldn’t take antibiotics unless you are sick, because they might not work for you when you really need them. Unfortunately, factory farms use copious amounts of antibiotics to promote growth in animals that are raised in filthy and overcrowded conditions. The antibiotics are administered at levels below what would be used to treat a disease, but enough to keep the animals growing steadily while they wallow in their own feces. This is the perfect environment for the development of “superbugs.”
Essentially, the low levels of antibiotics don’t kill all the bugs, and the stronger bacteria remain to breed stronger, more deadly animal— and human—diseases. Along with residues of these superbugs being found on meat in grocery stores, farm workers and vehicles can transport these superbugs off of factory farms and into our communities.
Concerns about antibiotic resistance have been raised by every major medical and health organization in the world—including the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization. They warn that life-saving antibiotics are losing their effectiveness, which is a grave threat to public health. The response from the Food and Drug Administration, however, has been woefully underwhelming.
The FDA took 35 years to respond to one petition to restrict the agricultural use of a particular antibiotic. The FDA is now relying on a set of voluntary rules to stem the development of superbugs, while blaming pharmaceutical companies that label their antibiotics for growth promotion. The FDA is essentially asking drug companies to remove labels indicating that antibiotics can be used to promote growth. Once the label has been changed, the drug can only be used in animal feed to “treat, prevent, or control disease” and would require a veterinary prescription for those uses. However, most antibiotics sold in livestock feed are available over the counter without veterinary oversight. This is a loophole big enough to drive an industrial tractor through.
But there is hope. California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Louise Slaughter have introduced HR 1150, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) and S 1256, the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA). These bills would ban medically important antibiotics (the medicines that we rely on to treat our loved ones when they get sick) from being used for unnecessary nontherapeutic purposes in livestock.
Communities throughout New Jersey are beginning to speak out about this major public health threat. To date, Highland Park, Red Bank and Secaucus have all passed resolutions demanding Federal action for an end to the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock. Senator Barnes and Assemblywoman Pinkin, from Middlesex County, have introduced a similar resolution in the New Jersey legislature. At the Federal level, Congressman Payne and Congressman Holt have co-sponsored HR 1150.
Help this critical effort by sending an email to your members of congress asking them to support HR1150/S1256 at: Bit.ly/AntibioticAction. If you would like to get move involved contact us at Bit.ly/VolunteerWithFWW.