Fair Farms Goes to Annapolis to Testify on Antibiotics Bill

    March 15, 2016

In early March, legislation that would limit the use of human antibiotics in farm animals who are not sick was heard in committee in the Maryland General Assembly. The bills, SB 607 in the Senate and HB 829 in the House, would take effect beginning February 1, 2017.

As part of our testimony, Fair Farms pointed out that antibiotic resistance, by the numbers, is just as significant a public health crisis as the opiate and heroin addiction.

In January, President Barack Obama appointed United States Department of Education Secretary Tom Vilsack to lead a task force on rural America’s opiate and heroin addiction crisis. In a radio interview shortly after the appointment, Secretary Vilsack said that about 2 million people overdose on opiates (prescription pain pills and/or heroin).

Surprisingly, it is about the same number of people sickened by antibiotic-resistant pathogens — about 2 million people a year.

Secretary Vilsack added that about 27,000 people will die of opiate overdose. About the same number (23,000) will die due to antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

In one circumstance, opiate addiction, it is a considered a high-priority public health crisis. People are addicted, people are overdosing, people are dying. We train police, EMTs and medics to constantly carry opiate antagonists like Naloxone to ensure that people who overdose don’t die from these drugs.

We are beginning to treat opiate addiction and abuse as the public health crisis that it is.

In the case of antibiotic resistance, which harms and kills just as many people, we have a solution at hand. Policymakers can act to limit the use of human antibiotics in farm animals who are not sick. California recently passed similar legislation.

Unfortunately, we are going in the wrong direction. According to a recent FDA report, antibiotic sales for use in livestock climbed by 23 percent from 2009 to 2014, with a 3 percent increase alone from 2013 to 2014 in antibiotics that are important for human health. A staggering 96 percent of these sales, too, were for animal feed and water, typically for growth promotion or preventing diseases in non-sick animals. And medically important drugs accounted for 62 percent of drugs sold for use in food animals in 2014.

The legislation would allow farmers to treat animals who are sick. The legislation would not have an impact on small farm operations.

If you’d like to encourage your legislator to pass this legislation so that antibiotics for humans will continue to work to cure illness and infection, write your members of the House of Delegates and Maryland State Senate using our Action Alert. 

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