Katie Couric Investigates Ag's Role in Antibiotic Resistance

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Elliott Negin
Media Director
202-331-5439
enegin@ucsusa.org

Katie Couric Investigates Ag's Role in Antibiotic Resistance

Federal Legislation Would Ensure Antibiotics Continue to Work for People

WASHINGTON - An investigative story
by Katie Couric on CBS "Evening News" recently shined a light the
growing problem of antibiotic resistance in medicine, a critical public
health issue that is unknown to most Americans. As the CBS news segment
pointed out, which took Katie Couric to Arkansas and Iowa, the overuse
of antibiotics in livestock and poultry feed and water in confined
animal feeding operations (CAFOs) contributes significantly to
antibiotic resistance. Producers routinely feed antibiotics to pigs,
cattle and chickens that are not sick, a practice that leads to the
development of bacteria that are immune to antibiotics and undermines
the effectiveness of these drugs in treating human diseases. According
to UCS, the problem is dangerous and unnecessary: modern agricultural
systems can forgo nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics and still provide
meat for U.S. consumers without sacrificing human or animal health.

A bill now gaining momentum in Congress would curtail the overuse of
antibiotics in food animal production, protect animal health, and
ensure the effectiveness of a small number of lifesaving antibiotics.
To date, 120 members of Congress have endorsed the bill, "The
Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA)." Nearly
300 stakeholder groups. including the American Medical Association,
also support PAMTA. Now is a good time to educate your readers on this
topic and encourage your congressional lawmakers to support the bill.

UCS estimates
that livestock and poultry production accounts for about 70 percent of
the antibiotics used in the United States each year. CAFOs routinely
feed such important human drugs as penicillin and tetracycline to pigs,
cattle and chickens to promote growth and prevent diseases caused by
overcrowded, stressful living conditions.

When bacteria are routinely exposed to antibiotics, they develop
resistance to them and become "superbugs" that can move from animals to
humans through food, air and water. Treating a patient infected by a
superbug with an ineffective drug can lead to a more serious illness,
and if none of the available antibiotics work, resistance becomes a
matter of life and death.

More and more Americans know someone or have personally dealt with a
superbug that has put them in the hospital and required extensive
rounds of high-powered medicine to fight it off. According to UCS, the
bill in Congress would help prevent the emergence of such superbugs by
reducing antibiotic use in animal agriculture.

 

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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