Antibiotics in farming create superbugs like MRSA


Sheepdrove Organic Farm has written before about the huge problem of antibiotics in farming. We avoid them, as an organic farm. Our customers appreciate this, as do many food experts.

If you were worried about MRSA consider this – industrial food production is making things worse. Researchers are finding mulit-resistant bacteria in all sorts of places, and it is linked with the over-use of antibiotics in farm animal care.

New government figures show approximately 64% of all farm antibiotic use is in pigs, 32% in poultry, 3% in cattle, 1% in fish and less than 0.5% in sheep. [10] This demonstrates the huge reliance of the intensive pig and poultry industries on antibiotics. Grazing animals like cattle and sheep, on the other hand, are generally farmed less intensively, with greater access to the outdoors. As a result, they develop fewer diseases and do not need as many antibiotics. But some modern farms feed antibiotics as a matter of course – not just to cure an illness, which is the intended purpose.

The Soil Association has just made a press release about it. Richard Young, Soil Association policy adviser, said:

“We estimate that a move to less intensive, more health-oriented livestock farming, could reduce farm antibiotic use by up to 75%. This would help to safeguard the future effectiveness of critically important drugs, and over the coming years, save countless human lives.

“The Government needs to get a grip on the situation quickly. Despite a warning from the House of Lords in 1998 on the veterinary use of fluoroquinolones and the increasing concern of the WHO and European regulators more recently, it has taken no effective action, and the use of these life-saving drugs is now increasing exponentially, year after year.

“We accept there are occasions when these antibiotics should legitimately be used on farms to prevent the death or suffering of large mammals like cattle and pigs. But it is quite clear that through ignorance of the long-term consequences, many vets and farmers are still choosing them just because they are modern medicines, when for most conditions there are equally effective alternatives.”

Government figures just published show another big jump in the veterinary use of two of the most important classes of antibiotics in human medicine. This is the sixth time in the last seven years that both fluoroquinolone and cephalosporin use has increased. In comparison with 2001, fluoroquinolone use in 2007 is up by 48% and cephalosporin use up by 138%. This despite large falls in livestock numbers over the same period. Since 2001 [4] pig numbers have fallen by 17%, poultry by 7%, cattle by 3% and sheep by 8%. [5]

Click here for the full press release and free downloads. (source: Soil Association)

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3 Responses to “Antibiotics in farming create superbugs like MRSA”

  1. E.coli - friend and foe! « the natureheads blog Says:

    […] it’s becoming a superbug. (BBC news > Farms infected with E-coli) Recent concern about the over-use of antibiotics in farming highlights a very real […]

  2. E.coli - friend and foe! « the natureheads blog Says:

    […] becoming a superbug. > BBC news Farms infected with E-coli. < Recent concern about the over-use of antibiotics in farming highlights a very real […]

  3. Superbugs on Radio Four « Sheepdrove’s Weblog Says:

    […] on BBC Radio 4 you can listen to a special report on Superbugs. Some bacteria are developing a multiple resistance to antibiotics and there’s a link to farming practices where these life saving drugs are […]

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