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Should Farmers Pay More For Antibiotics?

Should Farmers Pay More For Antibiotics?

As many consumer advocates and health experts are calling for bans, University of Calgary’s Aidan Hollis is proposing an alternative way to curb the over-use of antibiotic drugs in livestock. The professor of economics thinks we should raise the cost for non-human use.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration asked pharmaceutical makers to change the labels on their antibiotics, a voluntary measure the agency hopes will reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock. About 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to livestock, encouraging the growth of drug-resistant bacteria and posing a threat to human health.

However, many say the FDA’s measure doesn’t go far enough and will do little to actually decrease the practice of feeding antibiotics to animals to promote growth. “Public safety is the F.D.A.’s job, and they’re doing it badly,” writes Mark Bittman. “What’s needed here is a drastic reduction in the use of antibiotics, now, and few people think these recommendations are going to do that.” Consumer’s Union is urging the FDA to ban all use of antibiotics in livestock except for the treatment of sick animals.

Hollis, on the other hand, argues that charging a use-fee would be a more effective tool for reducing use. He writes in The New England Journal of Medicine that a ban “would deter low-value uses of antibiotics,” while at the same time raise revenues that could be devoted to developing new antibiotics.

This approach begs the question: how much should a use-fee cost? Hollis likens this fee to the royalties paid by oil companies and the logging industry. However, if there’s enough profit to be made, these fees don’t always compensate for the damage logging and drilling do to the environment. The use-fee on antibiotics for livestock would need to be high enough to make prophylactic use a bad investment.

Perhaps the most interesting angle to his argument is that such a measure could reach across national borders. While the U.S. has made voluntary recommendations, Canada has no such equivalent, and the European Union bans the use of antibiotics for growth promotion. Hollis sees a more global solution:

“Resistant bacteria do not respect national borders. Although the United States would benefit from imposing user fees on its own, an even better approach would be an international treaty to recognize the fragility of our common antibiotic resources and to impose user fees to be collected by national governments.”

 

Read more: Green, Health, News & Issues

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93 comments

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7:25AM PDT on Oct 11, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

4:29AM PDT on Apr 15, 2014

The price is and would be paid by the consumers' health

11:42AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

I'm in favor of increasing the regulation and breaking up the CAFOs

11:10AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

The best for everyone including animals is, to go Vegan.

7:56AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

good article

7:13AM PST on Jan 4, 2014

thanks

4:56PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Banning sounds more effective to me.

3:08PM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Most of farmers and ranchers are criminals, they benefit of animal slaughter, so they benefit with animal suffering and doing children without control...stupid consumerist society!!

12:41AM PST on Dec 30, 2013

Might be more sane to merely increase the iodine content of mineral blocks meant for livestock instead of pumping said livestock with who-knows-what type of nightmare antibiotic cocktail.

11:49PM PST on Dec 29, 2013

Something has got to be done. Animals should not be routinely receiving antibiotics as a preventative to infections, so that the big corps can avoid necessary veterinary care and/or keep them in horrific unsanitary conditions, including extreme overcrowding and unnaturally restrictive cages. Aside from allowing animal abuse, the overuse of antibiotics is harmful to humans. Everyone knows that, so why is there inaction on the part of FDA/USDA? Do I need to spell it out? How about collusion?

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