06/29/2010 - The Food and Drug Administration is taking some long overdue but still too timid steps to rein in excessive use of antibiotics in American agriculture. For years now industrial and many smaller-scale farmers have routinely fed antibiotics to their cattle, pigs and chickens to protect them from infectious diseases but also to spur growth and weight gain while using less feed. That may be good for agricultural production, but it is almost surely bad for the public’s health.
An alarming number of human pathogens have become resistant to one or more medicines, undermining the ability of doctors to treat patients effectively. Experts believe the primary cause is overprescribing in human patients, often for conditions like colds, where antibiotics are ineffective. But overuse of antibiotics in farm animals is also thought to be stimulating the emergence of resistant bacterial strains that can infect humans or pass their resistance to other germs that infect humans.
Read the full editorial, Antibiotics and Agriculture on the New York Times' Web site.