Throughout America, infectious diseases are emerging that
we may not be able to cure because bacteria have become
resistant to antibiotics.
Over the last 60 years, effective antibiotics have turned
bacterial infections into treatable conditions, rather than
the life-threatening scourges they once were. The effectiveness
of many life-saving antibiotics is, however, waning.
Health experts have deemed the rise in antibiotic resistance
a public health crisis.
Everyone is at risk from antibiotic-resistant infections,
but children, seniors, and people with weakened immune
systems are particularly vulnerable.
The overuse of antibiotics is to blame. A major source
of this overuse is routine use of antibiotics as feed additives
for livestock and poultry – not to treat disease,
but instead to promote growth and compensate for crowded,
stressful, unsanitary conditions. The Union of Concerned
Scientists estimates that 70% of all antibiotics in the
U.S. are used as feed additives for pigs, poultry and cattle.
In June 2001, the American
Medical Association went on record opposing the
routine feeding of medically important antibiotics to livestock
and poultry (i.e., "nontherapeutic" use).
Antibiotic use in animal agriculture has been linked
definitively to human bacterial infections resistant
to antibiotics. Mounting evidence suggests that widespread
overuse of agricultural antibiotics also may be contaminating
surface waters and groundwater, including drinking
water sources in many rural areas. Nonetheless, agribusiness
and the pharmaceutical industry are fighting hard to thwart
restrictions on the use of antibiotics in agriculture.
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Last updated 12/04/03