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Agricultural Over-Use Of Antibiotics Must End

29 October 2001

The Greens are calling on the Government to curb the agricultural over-use of antibiotics, following publication of research which shows that harmful bacteria in meat and poultry are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

The resistance is due to the widespread agricultural practice of feeding antibiotics to healthy animals.

The latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine recommends that the practice of feeding antibiotics to animals to promote growth should be banned, following confirmation that up to 84 per cent of common strains of bacteria of animal origin, such as salmonella, are resistant to at least one type of antibiotic, while 53 per cent are resistant to three different antibiotics.

Green Party Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley said 57 per cent of all antibiotics in New Zealand - or 53 tonnes of antibiotics - are fed to farm animals in New Zealand.

At least a quarter of these antibiotics are routinely fed to perfectly healthy animals such as chickens in their commercially prepared feed to make them grow faster and to prevent the spread of disease in intensive agriculture.

"The government should ban the practice of using antibiotics as growth promotants, and make it illegal to feed antibiotics to farm animals without veterinary approval," Ms Kedgley said.

"When you and I want to use an antibiotic, we have to get a prescription from the doctor. The same rules should apply to animals. They should not be available 'over the counter'."

Ms Kedgley said it had been well known for years that the over-use of antibiotics in farm animals results in the emergence of resistant bacteria in food, and 'superbugs' which can infect humans.

At present there is no control on the sale and use of antibiotics which are fed to animals without a veterinary prescription.

"Scientists have been warning for years that it is only a matter of time before antibiotics will become ineffective in treating many human disease," she said.

"If we don't move swiftly, medical advances of the past 50 years could be undermined by these unsustainable farming practices," she said.

Ends

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