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Superbug Antibiotics Threatened By Factory Farmers

7 June, 2004

Superbug antibiotics under threat from factory farmers

Green MP Sue Kedgley revealed today that a dramatic increase in the feeding of macrolide antibiotics to factory farmed animals is threatening our ability to treat human conditions from common respiratory infections to multiresistant gonorrhoea and the superbug MRSA.

Ms Kedgley, the Green spokesperson for Food Safety, said it was alarming that the response of the factory-farming industry to a serious Government warning in 2001 against the over-use of antibiotics, was to feed an astounding 7½ tonnes of macrolide antibiotics to factory farmed pigs and chickens in 2002 (the last year for which figures are available). This was a 50 per cent increase over the previous year.

The Government's Animal Remedies Board warned in 2001 that the use of macrolides in animals was producing superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics such as Erythromycin, and the vital Streptogramins, which are reserve antibiotics for MRSA superbug treatment and are considered to be one of the most important human antibiotics.

"The greatest medical advance of the 20th century is being jeopardised by the irresponsible use of these and other antibiotics in agriculture," said Ms Kedgley.

"We call on the Government to ban the practice of continuously feeding antibiotics that are significant in human medicine to animals. Other countries already have halted this activity and frankly it's scandalous that our Government continues to allow this reckless practice."

Ms Kedgley revealed this information at the launch of her multimedia Join the Food Revolution campaign at the national Green Party conference held in Wellington.

She said that Pharmac's campaign to reduce human over-use of antibiotics was being severely undermined by the fact that more than 100 tonnes of antibiotics were administered to animals in 2002

"There's little point in nationwide campaigns to reduce the amount of antibiotics that humans use, when a hundred tonnes of antibiotics are being continuously fed to factory-farmed animals," she said.

Between 2000 and 2002 there was a 34 per cent increase in the amount of all antibiotics fed to animals.

"This is utterly irresponsible. We know that the continuous feeding of low doses of antibiotics to millions of factory-farmed animals causes the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and that these subsequently transfer to humans and the environment," she said.

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