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Report Urges Antibiotic Target-Setting for Farming

09 December 2015

UK - The UK's independent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), chaired by Jim O’Neill, has released a report on the global use of antibiotics in agriculture.

The report describes how the global use of antibiotics is dominated by use in food production, estimating that 70 per cent of medically important antimicrobials are used in animals around the world.

It says that 100 out of 139 scientific papers analysed as part of the Review found evidence of a link between antibiotic use in animals and dangerous antibiotic resistance in humans.

The report suggested global target-setting measures to reduce use of antimicrobials in agriculture, and increased monitoring to see whether these targets would be met, as well as improved drug manufacturing processes to prevent release of active pharmaceutical ingredients into the environment.

But UK organisations involved in agriculture said that the country's legislation on antimicrobials is strong, and that antimicrobial use in animals is necessary for animal welfare.

In response to Jim O’Neill’s calls for a phased reduction of global antibiotic use in livestock, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), Sean Wensley, said: “The use of antibiotics in agriculture is just one piece of the jigsaw when tackling AMR and we need to see increased collaboration between health sectors to ensure positive steps are taken to preserve these essential drugs for future generations, particularly as its accepted that the main driver for AMR globally is the use of antibiotics in human health.

“BVA is opposed to the introduction of arbitrary, non-evidence based target setting; such targets, to reduce antibiotic use, risk restricting vets’ ability to treat disease outbreaks in livestock, which could have serious public health and animal welfare implications.

"The current EU legislation on vets’ prescribing of antibiotics for all animals, including those intended for production, is robust and we would like to see equivalent legislation rolled out globally.”

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) chief adviser for animal health and welfare, Cat McLaughlin, said: “The NFU is disappointed with the lack of context and consultation in the independent Review of Antimicrobial Resistance, chaired by Jim O’Neill.

“As part of RUMA, an independent non-profit group involving organisations that represent all stages of the food chain from farm to fork, the NFU believes that responsible use of antibiotics in British farming is crucial for the industry to maintain high levels of animal health and welfare. Traceability, transparency and accountability at all stages in the chain are at the centre of these high standards.”

“Arbitrary restrictions on the use of antibiotics and various other pharmaceutical products such as fungicides could have a detrimental impact on animal and plant health. Antibiotics should be used in a responsible manner – as little as possible but as much as needed. Antibiotics are not used as growth promoters in the UK – this is in fact illegal."

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