A quick post, because I’m on a ferocious deadline, but still can’t let this news go by. In a vote that’s non-binding but high-profile and influential, the European Parliament has resolved to end “prophylactic use” of antibiotics in farming, and to prevent any “last resort” antibiotics from being used in animals, in order to keep resistance from developing so that the drugs will still be effective in human medicine.
This is a significant development. The European Union has already banned “growth promotion,” the use of micro-doses of antibiotics that cause meat animals to fatten more quickly. What the Parliament is doing here is asking the European Commission, the EU’s law-making body, to add “disease prevention” use to the ban. That’s the delivery of treatment-strength doses of antibiotics to all animals on a farm in order to prevent their becoming ill as a result of the confinement conditions in which they are held. It accounts for a substantial portion of the antibiotics used in agriculture, and is a major driver of the emergence of antibiotic-resistant organisms.
The “Resolution on the Public Health Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance” says, in part, that the body:
29. Calls on the Commission to make legislative proposals to phase out the prophylactic use of antibiotics in livestock farming;
30. Stresses that the livestock and intensive fish-farming sectors should focus on preventing disease through good hygiene, housing and animal husbandry, as well as strict bio-security measures, rather than the prophylactic use of antibiotics;
31. Calls, in particular, for the establishment of good practices for animal husbandry which minimise the risk of antimicrobial resistance; emphasises that these practices should in particular apply to young animals brought together from different breeders thus increasing the risk of communicable diseases;…
33. Calls for a separation between the active ingredients and effect mechanisms used in human medicine and veterinary medicine, to the extent possible, to reduce the risk of resistance against antibiotics being transferred from livestock to humans, but points out that this must not result in the imposition of restrictions on existing treatment options that are effective;
34. Considers that the use of so called ‘last resort’ antibiotics targeting problematic human pathogens should be permitted for agricultural use only under licensed conditions combined with resistance monitoring, preferably on an individual basis…
For a quick read, here’s the press release, and for a longer one, here’s the full resolution, which admirably tackles overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human medicine, shortfalls in drug development, and the need for new quick diagnostics as well. Note also that it does not forbid the use of antibiotics to treat individual sick animals; no one that I am aware of has ever argued against that. According to the UK paper Farmers’ Guardian, agricultural unions are already objecting.