Antibiotic Resistance: How Industrial Agriculture Lies With Statistics

Robert Lawrence | Huffington Post | January 23, 2014

The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance wants to talk to you. The website of the Alliance, a coalition of corporations and trade associations that make up a who's who of industrial agriculture, says the organization wants "to engage in dialogue with consumers who have questions about how today's food is grown and raised." It appears, however, that the organization is more concerned with countering increasing awareness of the public health and environmental harms associated with industrialized agriculture.

Take antibiotic resistance. Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a landmark report estimating that antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause at least 2 million infections and kill at least 23,000 people in the U.S. every year. The "single most important" driver of this epidemic, according to the report, is the inappropriate use of antibiotics, including in agriculture. As the CDC put it, "much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe."

Indeed, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data have shown that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are sold for use in food animals, not humans. The same data suggest that the vast majority of antibiotics used in food animals are administered to compensate for crowded and unsanitary conditions and to speed animal growth. This use promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can spread to humans on food and through the environment...