Policy paper

Policy Paper
Ever since the first antibiotic was discovered, people have been able to fight off bacterial diseases that were once deadly. In today’s world, antibiotics have been improved, commercialized, and made available for almost anyone. Although antibiotics do serve a great purpose in human life, overexposure is hurting these antibiotics’ effectiveness.(1) These bacteria that have caused severe infections are beginning to become resistant to the bacteria that had once destroyed them. The antibiotic drug bacteria have become more and more resistant not only in humans but in animals, not just in medicine, but in agriculture as well. (2) Many of the US farms have been using antibiotics as growth hormones (growth promoters) for their animals, mostly in response to the fast paced economy, where supply and demand is important. About 90% of the antibiotics used in agriculture are given as growth-promoting and prophylactic agents, rather than to treat infection.(3). The antibiotics that are used in these animals eventually make their way into the waste of the animals. The improper way of discarding this waste is where the problem lies. Whether it be on the farm itself, or by nearby ditches, the waste eventually makes its way into the ground or used as fertilizer for the soil, where it ultimately ends up in water. So-called drinkable water is then contaminated and has the remnants of the anti-bodies used in the animals on the farms across America.(3) It’s obvious that people need water to live, so when the people are exposed to antibodies in the drinking water, they are actually under a constant, daily dose of medicine.(4) These bacteria intertwine with bacteria already in the body, making one body of resistant bacteria.(4)
In one study, in order to improve the growth of swine and poultry, the use of bacitracin, chlortetracycline, erythromycin, lincomycin, neomycin, oxytetracycline, penicillin, streptomycin, tylosin or virginiamycin is added to each ton of feed(3). A big reason why animals are injected with pro-growth hormones is to produce as many decent sized animals as possible for slaughter and sales production, over a short period of time(4). Products from slaughter houses that make foods like steak, chicken breasts, hamburgers etc. are then given to the public containing these antibiotics as well. Through products and waste from these animals, many antibiotics and diseases are exposed to the human body. According to data collected by NARMS, 12% of all Salmonella isolates obtained from human clinical samples in 2000 were resistant to at least five antibiotics, including ampicillin chloramphenicol, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, and tetracycline. All of these drugs or the classes of drugs they belong to are used in agriculture (1). Streptomycin, as mentioned twice previously, is a part of the Aminoglycosides group. Streptomycin has been used to fight against tuberculosis for many years, yet if resistant to bacteria, this specific antibiotic has been found to have toxic side effects and can cause kidney and ear damage (5). It is not scientifically proven nor confirmed that the antibiotic resistant bacteria are in result of exposure to antibiotics from animals found in water, though ecologists, environmentalists, and microbiologists alike accept it as a strong possibility. Antibiotics like streptomycin are just as important as preventing bacteria from becoming resistant, and both are heavily apart of pursuit of quality health and lifestyle. Actions, on farmlands and agricultural areas of the country and world alike, need to be taken in order to decrease this contamination of water.

• Antibiotic use on animals to promote fast-paced growth will end December 31, 2008. In order to reduce the antibiotics found in water, the antibiotics must first be completely absent in all animals. Any antibiotic necessary for purposes other than growth, may be used, but if only administered by the USDA.
• Proper waste handling will be enforced if in fact the animals do need to be treated with antibiotics for health purposes. Keeping waste away from water will help ensure that there is little or no contamination by the waste. This includes a distance of at least 500 feet from any sources of water. The waste containers should be structured to ensure no natural disaster can tamper with it. When completely full, the waste unit should be emptied into an alternate waste disposal facility to ensure that any ground water does not become contaminated as well.

To enforce the policy, random checkup and visitations will be made to farms to ensure the policy is being properly abided by. FDA employed personnel will give a list of certain antibiotics that can be used for health reasons only. Employees from the USDA will check to see if antibiotics are being used on the animals. If so, they will investigate if the use is primarily for health reasons, or in fact for growth. If it is found that antibiotics are being used to help promote growth, consequences will follow. Consequences will be put in place regarding proper removal and containment of waste as well. Breach of the policy will include but not limited to: a fine that consists of a $10,000, which may be tripled if violated twice. A third and final violation will result in complete determination of all farm functions. A USDA representative will decide what to do with all previously used farm equipment.

Most farms already have waste containers in place, yet if there is a need for any type of alternate waste containers, the USDA will help with expenses regarding this situation.

Water contaminated by waste products makes for a severe health risk problem. The problem lies with the resistance buildup not only in animals, but in humans as well. If antibiotics are found to be useless, overall health of the world is in danger. It is not proven that the resistance is directly related to contaminated water, but it is a definite possibility if there are contaminated water sources near farms. The main reason these animals are injected with antibiotics is to increase the rate at which they grow, creating a faster sale rate, creating more money for the farmer. The policy is set in place not for a single farm, but all farms, so the overall loss of sales will be levied by the overall change in the economy due to the policy. Sales will in turn rise again soon enough. Resistance of antibiotics can be detrimental to life itself, so implementing these rules and regulations can pave the way for a better, healthier future.

1. Schmidt Charles W. “Antibiotic Resistance in Livestock: More at Stake Than Stake” Google Scholar. Environmental Health Perspectives. 110(7); (2008) 396-402.
2. Armstrong J L, et al. “Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in drinking water.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 72(12): 2008 7813-7820
3. Khachatourians G. G. “Agricultural use of antibiotics and the evolution and transfer of antibiotic-resistant bacteria” Canadian Medical Association Journal. 159(9): 2008 1129-1136.
4. Burkholder, JoAnn, Et al. “Impacts of Waste from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations on Water Quality” Environmental Health Perspectives 115(2): 2008 308-312.
5. Salyers, Abigail A, Whitt, Dixie D. Revenge of the Microbes. American Society for Microbiology, 2005.

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