Monday, March 26, 2012

Judge: FDA Must Revisit Issue of Antibiotic Use in Livestock

Those working to improve our food supply have come to realize that a dollar vs. dollar fight against Big Food, Big Chemical, Big Pharma and their lobbying arms is a losing battle. The hundreds of millions of dollars that Kellogg's, Monsanto and Pfizer spend to keep the status quo and the public in the dark cannot be matched by the (mostly) non-profits that lead the opposition.

However, smarter tactics are being used and many of them rely on political and legal challenges to the entrenched system. For example, last Wednesday I wrote about the attempt to have the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act added to the state's ballot in November.

In addition, the fight against the rampant overuse of antibiotics in our food supply took a positive turn when a federal judge ruled on Thursday in favor of a suit filed by a coalition of five nonprofits, including the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

According to an article in The New York Times:
"The order, issued by Judge Theodore H. Katz of the Southern District of New York, effectively restarts a process that the Food and Drug Administration began 35 years ago, but never completed, intended to prevent penicillin and tetracycline, widely used antibiotics, from losing their effectiveness in humans because of their bulk use in animal feed to promote growth in chickens, pigs and cattle."
A little history, courtesy of an article in Food Safety News:
"In 1977, FDA determined that [three] antibiotics were likely contributing to drug-resistant bacteria strains in humans and should be reserved for therapeutic uses only. But the agency never held the drug company hearings required to put this proposal into place, and in December of 2011 it revoked these approval withdrawals altogether.

"But this week a court decision forced FDA to revive its plan to limit the [three] drugs - penicillin and two types of tetracycline - pending hearings with industry."
Obviously (and unfortunately), "industry" will do anything possible to not have to curtail the use of antibiotics, which cause our livestock to unnaturally get a lot bigger a lot quicker. To circumvent the judge's ruling, the purported reason for administering the antibiotics has magically morphed, according to the Times:
"[N]either the judge’s order nor the F.D.A.’s expected rule changes are likely to fundamentally alter the large-scale agricultural uses of antibiotics because farmers and ranchers now say the drugs are being used to prevent animal diseases, not to promote growth. The F.D.A. has so far refused to propose restrictions on antibiotic uses to prevent disease even when the drugs are delivered in feed or water, and Judge Katz’s order does not extend to disease prevention uses."
Oh well. But at least it's a start and shows that victories are achievable through creative political and legal avenues.

Click here to read Congresswoman Louise Slaughter's response to the judge's decision. Slaughter is the champion in Congress for eliminating the needless use of antibiotics in our healthy livestock.

Click here to let the FDA know that you do not approve of the use of antibiotics in our healthy livestock.

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