Force-feeding prescription drugs to healthy people, just to make them grow faster, would be considered ludicrous by any doctor. Possibly even criminal.
That's why the Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, and other health and science groups filed suit yesterday against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for allowing factory farms to do just that -- waste our precious antibiotics on healthy livestock, just to help them grow fatter faster.
Here's the disturbing truth. Approximately 70% of all antibiotics in our country are being squandered on healthy cows, pigs and chickens for unnecessary (and unnatural!) reasons like growth promotion, creating vast amounts of drug-resistant superbugs that put our children and families at risk.
For decades, antibiotics have saved us from diseases that were once a death sentence, ranging from bacterial meningitis to tuberculosis and pneumonia. But now, multi-drug resistant infections are on the rise, while the development of costly new antibiotics has slowed to a snail's pace. Around the world, leading health organizations are warning that we're on the verge of a global public health crisis.
And industrial agriculture keeps pouring gasoline on the fire, by regularly feeding important human antibiotics to our food animals at doses too low to treat disease -- but perfect for breeding drug-resistant, dangerous bacteria.
The problem is so big and so bad that even our government officials openly admit that squandering antibiotics on livestock is a major threat to public health -- and that we will not be able to win the battle against drug-resistance unless we end the practice.
Take it straight from the National Academy of Sciences:
A decrease in the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in human medicine alone is not enough. Substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate overuse of antimicrobials in animals and agriculture as well.
Translation? The insanity has to stop now.
And that's where FDA comes into the picture.
Even though FDA has known for decades that giving human antibiotics to healthy animals can breed monster bacteria that threaten human health, and even though the agency has a legal obligation to take action -- FDA has done nothing.
Thank goodness they're not getting away with it. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), together with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), and Public Citizen, filed suit on Wednesday to make the FDA get off the sidelines and into the game, doing its job to protect the health of our families.
The coalition lawsuit will force the FDA to pull its head out of the sand and address this serious threat to public health now.
It will not only make the agency withdraw approval for giving penicillins and tetracyclines to healthy animals, but will also make FDA reevaluate whether it is safe to keep feeding ANY antibiotics important for human medicine to healthy animals.
The lawsuit couldn't come at a more urgent time. Currently, while your family doctor carefully weighs the options before prescribing an antibiotic to your sick child, industrial farms are doling out the same antibiotics to animals like candy, undermining their ability to protect our health.
Maybe factory farms think they can stuff 25 million pounds of antibiotics into animal feed and water, and we won't notice. Or maybe they think we won't care.
But they're wrong.
We've noticed and we're not staying quiet.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by PEW Charitable Trusts earlier this month, 80 percent of moms are concerned about antibiotics being used in meat production.
Why? Because, even if big agriculture doesn't get it, parents know the value of a working antibiotic. We've stayed up all night with sick kids, worrying about whether a fever will break or when a doctor's prescription will kick in. We know firsthand that ending this dangerous practice is about common sense, preparedness, and putting the health of people first.
There are no more excuses for delay. The science is in. More than 300 of the world's leading health and consumer organizations have already come forward to demand that this practice come to an end. Countries around the globe -- including all 27 member states of the European Union -- have already banned the use of important human antibiotics for growth promotion.
And it's time for us to do the same here at home.
Learn more about this life threatening issue from NRDC. Then sign a petition http://www.nrdc.org/media/2011/110525.asp to support legislation that would help stop the outrageous misuse of these precious medicines on factory farms.