Natural Health Journals

Antibiotics in Agriculture: How Corporate Overuse is Putting You at Risk and Why the FDA and USDA Aren’t Protecting You

By Brianna L. Ladapo

Antibiotic drugs are widely cited as the most important medical invention of this century. For the past several decades, they have revolutionized the interventional abilities of Western physicians, transforming bacterial infections like pneumonia and meningitis from life-threatening illnesses into easily treatable conditions. Used by nearly every medical specialty in existence, these “miracle drugs” have undoubtedly saved countless lives.10 Unfortunately, however, the effectiveness of these drugs has resulted in their overuse—not just in humans, but in animals. For the last several years, livestock producers have routinely used antibiotics not just for sick animals, but prophylactically, to compensate for overcrowded, unhygienic living conditions on their poultry, swine, and cattle farms. Since the U.S. government does not require these livestock producers to obtain any type of prescription before administering antibiotics, restrict the use of antibiotics important in human medicine, or limit treatment to those who actually exhibit symptoms of infirmity, they regularly use mainstream medical drugs to treat the water and food supplies of entire flocks and herds to prevent illness during forced early weaning and diet transitions.7 Agricultural antibiotic use has grown so common that both the Union of Concerned Scientists and the U.S. Government now estimate that over 70% of all antibiotics manufactured are used in agricultural settings. Even more disturbingly, the amount of antibiotics used non-therapeutically in animal agriculture is eight times greater than the amount used in all human medicine.7,10 As a result of this prophylactic overuse in animals—which are a vital part of the human food supply—doctors are identifying increasing numbers of human bacterial infections that are failing to respond to once-effective antibiotic treatment.3 Medical experts agree that, consequentially, lives that were once being saved by prescription antibiotics are now being lost to “superbugs,” or antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that are eliminating treatment options for common infections. Antibiotic-resistant illness, which the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has declared to be one of its “top concerns,” causes tens of thousands of premature deaths in the United States every year, and drives up medical costs incalculably.7 Today, the excessive use of these drugs, coupled with the constant discovery of new ones and the government’s failure to act in the interest of its constituency’s health—as the rest of the world did long ago—is fast escalating the problem of antibiotic resistance into a global health crisis.13


A few years ago, a 62-year-old Danish woman was rushed to the emergency room at Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, after nine straight days of diarrhea. After diagnosing her with a terrible case of food poisoning caused by Salmonella, her doctors administered a heavy-duty antibiotic called ciprofloxacin, which can annihilate the worst Salmonella strains within days. However, over the next several hours, the infection actually worsened, becoming so severe that it punched a hole in her colon, inviting the Salmonella and other bacteria into the rest of her body. As her condition grew critical, physicians pumped her full of two other types of antibiotics and repaired her damaged colon, but to no avail; one by one, her organs failed. Four days later, she was dead. What her medical team realized too late is that they were dealing with an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella.8

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming an increasingly serious problem as a result of habitual overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. Simply put, the problem is this: every time bacteria are exposed to antibiotics (in humans or animals), the likelihood that some of those bacteria will develop resistance to the drugs increases. Any bacteria that already are resistant or become resistant to the drugs then reproduce, creating stronger, more resistant strains of bacteria. Because bacteria reproduce so rapidly (sometimes in as little as 20 minutes), antibiotic-resistant strains can grow problematically large within very short time frames. Moreover, prophylactic antibiotic use in animals especially encourages the development of resistance because it mandates low-level exposure to the drugs—usually via feed or water—over long periods of time.3 These resistant bacteria are then transferred to humans in three ways: food, animals, and the environment. First, meat sold to consumers in grocery stores nationwide is extensively contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria; in fact, a recent study discovered that 20% of meat sampled at grocery stores in the Washington D.C. area was contaminated with Salmonella, and 84% of those bacteria were resistant to antibiotics used in human medicine and animal agriculture.3 Second, livestock laborers often contract resistant bacteria when they handle animals, feed, and manure, and then pass the bacteria to others they encounter (family, friends, community members, etc.). Third, two trillion pounds of manure are generated in the U.S. each year, all of which contain resistant bacteria; this manure is dispersed into the groundwater, surface water, and soil that is then ingested or used for growing produce that will be ingested by humans, thus transferring the resistant bacteria into their bodies. Not only are the antibiotic-resistant bacteria themselves harmful to humans, but they have to ability to transfer their resistance traits to other bacteria once they get inside the human body, thus compounding the problem.3

As a result of increased transmission rates in the last several years, stories like that of the unlucky Danish woman above have become horrifyingly common; in fact, an estimated 38 Americans die each day from hospital-acquired antibiotic-resistant infections.3 As of last year, 33% of human infections by a particular strain of Salmonella are resistant to over five different antibiotics. Further, Salmonella causes 1.4 million illnesses and 580 deaths every year in the United States.3 And Salmonella isn’t the only problem: nearly all strains of Staphylococcus, or “staph” infections in the U.S. are now resistant to penicillin and many newer drugs, and one in six Campylobacter infections (the most common cause of food poisoning) is resistant to fluoroquinolones, which are the drugs most often used to treat this affliction. It is interesting to note that a mere six years ago, before fluoroquinolones were allowed to be used for raising poultry, such resistance was largely nonexistent. Now, as a result of antibiotic-resistant strains of Campylobacter, these bacteria are responsible for 2.4 million illnesses and over 120 deaths each year in the U.S.3 There are also strong agricultural links to resistant human disease strains of Enterococcus and Escherichia coli (E. coli). In total, resistant bacterial infections increase U.S. health care costs by at least $4 billion every year.3 15


One might wonder why, given the horrific health dangers associated with prophylactic use of antibiotics, are agricultural farms still using them? The simple answer is that currently, farms are not held to strict standards of hygiene and humane care of their animals—in fact, that is quite an understatement. The benefits (for them) of having these unbelievably low standards are two-fold: first, their costs are obviously much lower than if they were required to maintain hygienic environments for their animals and slaughter them humanely, and second, rather than actually treating any sick or injured animals for their illnesses or wounds, farms are currently permitted to simply dose the rest of the animals with prophylactic antibiotics, and grind up the sick or injured animal to feed them. There have been numerous undercover exposés about the conditions and behaviors on these farms that are causing animals to become sick or injured, and all have made extremely disturbing discoveries. According to a report by the USDA itself, over 99% of chicken carcasses are contaminated with E. coli by the time they reach grocery stores, principally because of the indecent conditions in which they are raised.15 According to the Congressional testimony of one Perdue plant worker, the poultry plants are absolutely disgustingly dirty; she details flies, rats, and enormous cockroaches covering the floor.9 Because chickens are kept in such overcrowded, tiny cages, they often peck factory farm workers—a problem the workers have solved by slicing their beaks off their faces, creating gaping wounds exposed for infection by their grimy, germ-ridden cages. Ironically, the high doses of prophylactic antibiotics chickens receive are responsible for making them grow too large too fast, causing them to become crippled under their own weight and suffer organ failure.9 Unfortunately, though over 95% of animals currently slaughtered for food are chickens, Congress did not deem them important enough to be included in the Humane Slaughter Act, so they do not have to be stunned before being sliced, nor medicated afterward.9 Cattle aren’t treated any better, confined to less than 20 square feet per cow (“the equivalent of putting a dozen half-ton steers in a typical American bedroom”9), and undergoing procedures like branding, dehorning, and castration without pain relief. Since they spend so much time being exposed to harsh elements during transportation, they often die of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and pneumonia.15 In the winter, the animals’ hooves often freeze right to the steel railing of the trucks in which they are transported. A worker interviewed by Gail Eisnitz, Chief Investigator for the Humane Farming Association, says, “[the animals] are still alive, and [the workers] will hook a cable onto on it and pull it out, maybe pull a leg off.”9 According to research published in the Journal of Animal Science, 36 percent of beef bulls and 39 percent of dairy cows show signs of lameness and crippling by the time they arrive at slaughter. Those who can’t walk at all, usually due to broken legs and hips or severe illness, are called “downers.”15 They too are beaten with electric prods or dragged off the truck with chains and forklifts. “[D]ragging [downed] cattle with a chain and forklift is standard practice,” according to one inspector quoted in Slaughterhouse.15 After they are dragged off the trucks—thanks to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns—they are permitted to be ground up and sold as food!9

Eisnitz interviewed dozens of slaughterhouse workers nationwide for her book Slaughterhouse. Absolutely every single worker she interviewed admitted to abusing animals or failing to report those they had witnessed doing so. Here are just a few of the experiences they shared with her: “Hogs get stressed out pretty easily. If you prod them too much they have heart attacks. If you get a hog…that’s had a heart attack or refuses to move, you take a meat hook and hook it into his bunghole [anus]. You’re dragging these hogs alive, and a lot of times the meat hook rips out of the bunghole. I’ve seen hams—thighs—completely ripped open. I’ve also seen intestines come out. If the hog collapses near the front of the chute, you shove the meat hook into his cheek and drag him forward.” “Sometimes I grab [a hog] by the ear and stick it right through the eye. I’m not just taking his eye out, I’ll go all the way to the hilt, right up through the brain, and wiggle the knife.” “I’ve drug cows till their bones start breaking, while they were still alive. Bringing them around the corner and they get stuck up in the doorway, just pull them till their hide be ripped, till the blood just drip on the steel and the concrete. Breaking their legs. . . . And the cow be crying with its tongue stuck out. They pull him till his neck just pop.” “One time I took my knife—it’s sharp enough—and I sliced off the end of a hog’s nose, just like a piece of bologna. The hog went crazy for a few seconds. Then it just sat there looking kind of stupid. So I took a handful of salt brine and ground it into his nose. Now that hog really went nuts, pushing its nose all over the place.” “Nobody knows who’s responsible for correcting animal abuse at the plant. The USDA does zilch.”9


An overwhelming force of U.S. physicians and health organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA) itself, are now absolutely opposed to the use of antibiotics in healthy animals. Their policy states that the AMA “urges that nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials in animals that are also used in humans should be terminated or phased out based on scientifically sound risk assessments” (though, it is interesting to note that the pharmaceutical industry-allied Animal Health Institute’s rapid and erroneous response was that “the assertion that there is increasing evidence that resistance developed in animals is spreading to humans is not true,” despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary).10 Other major U.S. health organizations that have taken positions similar to the AMA’s include the American College of Preventive Medicine, the American Public Health Association, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and the World Health Organization. In 2002, the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Infectious Diseases published an analysis of over 500 scientific articles—10 of them by the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA)—which stated that “[m]any lines of evidence link antimicrobial-resistant human infections to foodborne pathogens of animal origin,” and concluded that “the elimination of nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animals… will lower the burden of antimicrobial resistance in the environment, with consequent benefits to human and animal health.”3 In 2003, the highly regarded Lancet Journal of Infectious Diseases published the collaborative assessments of a panel of six experts on the interplay between antibiotic use in animal husbandry and antibiotic resistance in human beings, and the conclude: “we support the precautionary approach to antibiotics as growth promoters taken by EU countries. Agriculture has made great leaps forward since the 1940s, and the era of antibiotics as animal growth-promoters has passed. Antibiotic use should be restricted to the treatment, prevention, or cure of disease in human beings and animals.”12


Much of the rest of the modern world—especially Europe—has already taken great strides against the irresponsible overuse of antibiotics. The battle effectively began in 1986, when Sweden passed a law—at the request of their agricultural workers and farmers—that banned the use of growth-promoting antimicrobials in agricultural settings. In 1997, the European Union (EU) banned the use of avoparcin (an antibiotic) as a feed additive after Denmark, Norway, and Sweden all banned the drug. Shortly thereafter, the EU also banned four other major growth-promoting antibiotics that are commonly used in human medicine (virginiamycin, bacitracin, tylosin, and spiramycin).11 In 1998, Denmark (the world’s largest pork exporter, interestingly enough) banned all antibiotic feed additives.3 Finally, in 2006, the EU completely banned the feeding of all antibiotics and related drugs to animals for growth promotion.7 As a result, the agricultural industry throughout the EU has universally been forced to provide better hygiene for their animals and farm workers, improve their husbandry methods, and develop non-antibiotic growth promoters like probiotics. Over the past two decades, Europe has proven that animal agriculture can be every bit as productive—and far healthier for both animals and consumers—without antibiotics.11 Though many proponents of irresponsible antibiotic use insist that the success of modern agriculture is dependent on these drugs and claim that, without them, consumer prices and animal health will suffer, a study by the World Health Organization confirms the success of the EU, concluding that the recent bans on growth-promoting antimicrobials have caused a “dramatic” reduction in resistant bacterial species in food animals, and have not negatively affected consumer prices, food safety, or animal health.3 13 Clearly, Europe has made drastic, unequivocal strides toward protecting its citizens from a prominent medical threat; their response is admirable, and quite comprehensible, given the clear consequences of inaction. Faced with identical medical evidence, it is difficult to comprehend that the United States—arguably the world’s only standing superpower, advanced in every scientific and technological realm in existence—could possibly have no interest whatsoever in banning these dangerous drugs.


Despite the abundance of expert opinions, medical evidence, and international support for suspending the use of prophylactic antibiotics, the governing bodies that are supposed to protect the citizens of the United States—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)—have routinely compromised their ethics, primary missions, and the health of the general public in their quest to hide the unscrupulous activities of the industries they govern, proving themselves far more interested in protecting their financial interests than fulfilling their social and moral obligations.

In 2003, the FDA released a statement acknowledging that the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is “a contributing factor to the development of [antibiotic] resistance” in humans. 3 Since the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act dictates that the FDA has the authority to restrict the use of antibiotics in animals based upon the potential risk to human health, it is very confusing indeed that they have essentially chosen not to—time and time again.7 In 1996, the FDA approved the use of fluoroquinolones (a type of antibiotic) in chickens and turkeys, despite heavy resistance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which insisted that the drugs were far too valuable in treating human community- and hospital-acquired enteric infections (primarily Salmonella) to allow in agriculture. Though they were ignored, it turns out that the CDC’s concerns were valid indeed: almost immediately, fluoroquinolone resistance appeared in Campylobacter bacteria isolated from chickens, and by the following year, 17.6% of C. jejuni and 30% of C. coli isolated from human patients showed fluoroquinolone resistance. As aforementioned, Campylobacter infections are now the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States.6 In its first responsible decision regarding the issue of antibiotic resistance, the FDA released an order in July, 2008 that prohibited all extralabel use of cephalosporin antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals. The FDA press release concerning the issue reads: “On July 3, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a final rule that prohibits the extralabel use of cephalosporin antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals, including, but not limited to cattle, swine, chickens, and turkeys. This rule will help further protect consumers against antimicrobial-resistant strains of zoonotic foodborne bacterial pathogens. By law, FDA may issue a prohibition order if evidence shows that extralabel use of a drug in food-producing animals has caused, or is likely to cause, a public health risk. In this case, FDA has gathered evidence showing that the extralabel use of cephalosporins in food-producing animals is likely to contribute to the emergence of resistance and compromise human therapies. Given the importance of the cephalosporin class of drugs for treating disease in humans, FDA believes that preserving the effectiveness of such drugs is critical. Therefore, FDA believes it is necessary to take action to limit the extent to which extralabel use of cephalosporins in food-producing animals may be contributing to the emergence of resistant variants.”14 Despite this clear commitment, the FDA reversed their decision just five months later—after receiving over 300 comments from the animal agriculture industry and production veterinarians. Their reversal completely ignores the overwhelming evidence on which the initial decision was based, and demonstrates the FDA’s nauseating loyalty to the agricultural industry and utter dismissal of U.S. citizens’ health. Margaret Mellon, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists said, “This action is yet another of the holiday gifts the Bush administration is bestowing on industry. . . . The next Administration must reverse course and make protecting public health FDA’s top priority. FDA should work with veterinarians to identify alternatives to extralabel cephalosporin use instead of continuing to allow an entrenched practice to put the public at risk.”12 While Europe has nearly enforced a total ban on antibiotics as animal growth promoters, our FDA currently allows seven important classes of antibiotics (which include 19 distinct drugs) to be used both in human medicine and as nontherapeutic feed additives. As a result, dangerous human antibiotic resistance continues to grow daily.3 11

In addition to its public safety digressions concerning antibiotics, the FDA has a long history of other immoral behavior. A good example is their 1990 approval of Monsanto’s drug Posilac, a commercialized form of bovine growth hormone (BGH), which they allowed into the market even though the test study unequivocally connected the hormone with prostate and thyroid cancer. It wasn’t until 1998, when a team of researchers conducted an independent analysis of the study, that these test results even became public. They discovered that the FDA had never even reviewed Monsanto’s appalling conclusions! Since then, BGH has been connected with increased levels of Insulin Growth Factor-1, a cancer promoter. Despite this fact, as well as the fact that neither the World Trade Organization or the United Nations Food Standards Body will endorse the hormone’s safety, and the fact that BGH milk has been banned in the entirety of the European Union, Canada, Japan, and nearly every other industrialized nation in the world, the FDA still allows this dangerous agent into the U.S. milk supply. Some theorize that this may be because the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner at the time of the drug’s approval was formerly a lawyer for Monsanto who, during his tenure there, also happened to write the policy that exempts BGH from special labeling. Others believe that one of Monsanto’s former head scientists, who the FDA hired to review the BGH safety research she herself conducted while still working there, is to blame; the same woman is also responsible for permitting the acceptable level of antibiotic residues in milk to be increased by one hundred times.9

Sadly, the FDA is not the only public safety institution with a history of bad behavior; the USDA has just as terrifying a track record. Unlike the FDA, the USDA refuses to even acknowledge the abundant scientific evidence that proves the detrimental relationship between antibiotic overuse in agriculture and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. Instead, they argue that antibiotic use in animals is necessary for keeping them healthy, and insist that physicians and public health organizations are falsely inflating the problem: “We’re not saying there isn’t any concern,” says a spokesperson, “but in the whole scheme of things, we believe that it’s relatively minor.”8 It is difficult to take the word of an organization who professes to be responsible for “the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products,” yet has many high-ranking staff members who happen to be former employees and/or affiliates of the meat and dairy industries. For example, one former USDA secretary was indicted on 39 felony counts, including tampering with a witness; accepting illegal gratuities; making false statements; and violating the Meat Inspection Act of 1907, and forced to resign; one of the corporations from whom he had accepted enormous payoffs was Tyson Foods, one of the largest food suppliers of the U.S. Defense and Education Departments.9 President George W. Bush’s Agriculture Secretary from January 2001–January 2005, Ann Veneman, who was closely tied to both a major meatpacking corporation and Monsanto, the company that produced the extremely controversial BGH, vetoed a program that proposed to test all U.S. cattle for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (mad cow disease). Though other countries test all cattle slaughtered for human consumption for this fatal neurodegenerative disease, it would not be in the financial interests of the beef industry—and therefore the USDA—to require this testing. According to the Organic Consumers Association, “Lester Friedlander, former USDA veterinarian, says he was told by USDA officials as far back as 1991 that if his testing ever found evidence of Mad Cow disease, he was to tell no one. He and other scientists say they know of cases where cows tested positive for the disease in laboratories but were ruled negative by the USDA.”9 In addition, the USDA has routinely been accused of overlooking illegal drug use in agriculture, falsifying lab results, altering records, and pressuring staff to lie about events. In 1998, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a federal lawsuit against the USDA for appointing six (out of eleven) people with financial affiliations to assorted food industries to serve on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which was responsible for creating the USDA Food Pyramid distributed in schools and health offices nationwide. These affiliations included: the American Meat Institute, the National Livestock and Beef Board, the American Egg Board, the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program, the National Dairy Council, Dannon Company (yogurt manufacturer), Mead Johnson Nutritionals (milk-based infant formulas), Nestle (milk-based formulas, ice cream, and condensed milk manufacturer), and Slim Fast (milk-based diet products). In 1999, a Texas ground beef plant—one of the nation’s largest suppliers of school lunches—failed a series of USDA salmonella tests when 47% of the meat tested positive for the bacteria (a quantity five times higher than USDA regulations allow). Nevertheless, the USDA continued to buy thousands of tons of meat for use in schools.9 In recent news, it was publicized that veal calves are being regularly pumped full of illegal hormones, which are suspected of accelerating the growth of cancer cells and substantially increasing the risk of both prostate cancer and breast cancer, to encourage quicker growth. When this was initially revealed, the USDA feigned surprise and declared that all calves dosed with the hormones must be banned from the food supply. However, upon heavy protest from veal growers, they gave in immediately, and are now allowing all hormone-dosed veal calves to be freely used in the human food supply.2 Incidentally, the FDA admits that this practice is illegal, yet allows it anyway—apparently illegality is less of a problem than immorality.


Despite the inaction of the FDA and USDA, there are several wonderful, conscientious organizations out there taking steps to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance; there are also simple steps you can take to protect yourself! First, it is important to reduce antibiotic intake in human medicine to limit the number of opportunities drug-resistant bacteria have to become problematic. The CDC is currently implementing impressive programs designed to educate both doctors and patients about reducing unnecessary antibiotic use. As a patient, it is your responsibility to understand that antibiotics ONLY work against bacterial infections—not viral infections, such as the common cold or flu. Though antibiotics are ineffective against these ailments, patients often request them thinking they are a panacea, and doctors often prescribe them, regardless of whether they are appropriate. However, if you are correctly prescribed antibiotics for a bacterial infection, be sure to finish the entire course prescribed! Failure to do so promotes the survival of resistant bacteria in your body.3

Second, it is obviously important to dramatically reduce—if not entirely suspend—the use of prophylactic antibiotics in agriculture. As the 2003 National Academy of Sciences report notes, “[a] decrease in anti – microbial use in human medicine alone will have little effect on the current situation. Substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate overuse in animals and agriculture as well.”3 Though the national agencies we depend on have done nothing to keep our population safe, independent companies have started to make responsible strides toward a healthier America. In 2003, McDonald’s Corporation surprised the industry with an announcement that they would no longer purchase chicken from producers who used prophylactic antibiotics on their farms. As a result, four of the nation’s ten chicken producers (Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Foster Farms, and Gold Kist) have opted to stop using these drugs to encourage growth.7 While these are excellent steps toward a larger solution, the government still needs to step in and take an active role in cleaning up this sizable disaster—starting with requiring all agricultural producers to stop using these drugs. In the meantime, however, all corporations involved in the production and marketing of agriculture (farms, restaurants, grocery stores, meat producers, etc.) should voluntarily stop purchasing or selling meat produced with nontherapeutic antibiotics.3 The FDA or Congress needs to cancel existing approvals of medically important antibiotics for nontherapeutic purposes (though it has always been well within the power of both bodies to cancel existing drug approvals through legislation or regulation, they have refused to do so). They also need to strengthen the review process of all antibiotic drugs that are put forward in the future, and establish a concrete method of reviewing the safety of drugs already on the market. In addition, all of this data should be made available to the public. You can help encourage Congress to change the laws by contacting your local Congress representatives and expressing your concern about this important issue! You can also contact your Senator and encourage him or her to support the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which is a bill that will ban the use of seven classes of medically important antibiotics in livestock and poultry in the U.S. More than 350 health, agriculture and other groups nationwide have endorsed this legislation, including The American Medical Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.12 You can also take a stand for health by purchasing only meat and poultry produced with no antibiotics (these products are widely available at many grocery stores around the country, including all Whole Foods Markets, Trader Joe’s, and Henry’s Markets). Each time you consciously make a responsible choice, verbalize your reasons for doing so and help educate your community about the dangers of antibiotic abuse.

The behavior of our government needs to be dictated by the direction of our future; thanks to our globalized society, the havoc wreaked by irresponsible antibiotic use reaches well beyond the country of origin. Agricultural products are internationally traded, and bacteria are certainly not bound by geography.17 As a world leader in industry, innovation, ethnic diversity, wealth, military, and medical discovery, the United States has a responsibility to set the standard of moral behavior to which we expect our peers to adhere—not send the message that human life is less important than commerce. In this case, our government has been put readily to shame by the rest of the civilized world, and has been exposed for the profit-driven, soulless vulture that it is. It has become very obvious that, if the citizens of this country do not band together to force our government to change their ways, we are headed for an international health crisis of unprecedented magnitude. Unfortunately, several studies of human antibiotic use have shown that preventing the materialization of resistance in the first place is a lot easier than trying to control that resistance after it has already emerged, so it would certainly behoove our government to deal with this problem quickly and effectively, before it gets any worse.13 With the newly added threat of biological terrorism (possibly including the use of infectious bacteria), it is more crucial than ever that we vigilantly safeguard the purity of our antibiotic tools.10 It is high time the government recognized that public health concerns take precedence over profit when it comes to antibiotic use in agriculture—and as the people it professes to represent, it is each of our responsibilities to see that it does so.

• For information on the growing campaign surrounding this issue, visit
• To get involved, visit the Natural Health Solutions Foundation at
• To learn more about Monsanto, the corporation responsible for BGH and many genetically modified foods, and/or to sign a petition requesting that their globally destructive behavior be stopped, visit:
• To help us STOP Tom Vilsack’s Senate confirmation and lobby for a Secretary of Agriculture who cares about integrity in agriculture and reflects social justice values, visit:

Works Cited

  1. “The 2001 Federal Interagency Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance.” The Union of Concerned Scientists (2003): 30 Oct. 2008 .
  2. Adams, Mike. “FDA compromises public health to appease veal industry; illegal hormones will be allowed into the human food supply.” Natural News (2004): 30 Oct. 2008 <>.
  3. “Antibiotic Resistance—An Emerging Public Health Crisis.” Keep Antibiotics Working (2001): 20 Dec. 2008 <>.
  4. “European Union Bans Antibiotics for Growth Promotion.” The Union of Concerned Scientists (2006): 30 Oct. 2008 2008 .
  5. “Factory Farming: Environmental Consequences.” 30 Oct. 2008. .
  6. Falkow, Stanley. “Antibiotics, animals, and people—again!” Science 291 (2001): 397.
  7. “FDA’s Approach to Antibiotic Regulation.” The Union of Concerned Scientists (2004): 30 Oct. 2008 .
  8. Ferber, Dan. “Superbugs on the Hoof?” Science 288 (2000): 792-794.
  9. Freedman, Rory et al. Skinny Bitch. Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 2005.
  10. Lu, C.C. et al. “To ban or not to ban?” The Lancet Infectious Diseases 3:1 (2003):1.
  11. Pauly, Angela. “FDA Puts Off Public Health Protections to Accommodate Farm Industry.” Keep Antibiotics Working (2008): 20 Dec. 2008 .
  12. Singer, Randall S. et al. “Antibiotic resistance—the interplay between antibiotic use in animals and human beings.” The Lancet Infectious Diseases 3:1 (2003): 47-51.
  13. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Issues Order Prohibiting Extralabel Use of Cephalosporin Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals.” FDA(2008) 6 Jan. 2009
  14. “Vegetarianism: Meet Your Meat.” PETA (2008): 30 Oct. 2008
  15. White, David G. et al. “The isolation of antibiotic-resistant salmonella from retail ground meats.” New England Journal of Medicine 345 (2001): 1147-1154.
  16. Witte, Wolfgang. “Medical consequences of antibiotic use in agriculture.” Science 279 (1998): 996-997.