The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) held briefings on Capitol Hill Monday to educate lawmakers and their staff about antibiotics in agriculture and to push back against proposed federal legislation that would ban the routine use of the drugs in animal feed.
According to the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA), “The briefings were part of AVMA’s continued efforts to shed light on the complex nature and crucial need to treat animals, and how the health of those animals affects human health through the food supply or direct contact with pets.”
Lloyd Keck, a worldwide animal health consultant to the poultry industry, told congressional staffers the benefits of using antibiotics to animals and people outweigh any current risk associated with bacterial resistance. He said decision makers “need to let good sense and good science guide this issue,” according to an AVMA release.
Consumer and public health groups say science supports curbing routine, nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in food animal feed.
According to to a recent Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production report, “A key contributor to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is the overuse of drugs on industrial farms.”
“Antibiotics important to human health are fed to food animals at low doses, often over long periods of time, creating a breeding ground for new and resistant bacteria and a potentially hazardous workplace,” said the report.
AVMA and all of the major meat industry groups are strongly opposed to the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which is currently being considered in the House and Senate. The bill would require that the FDA deny any new animal antibiotic drugs unless the federal government is certain the drugs will not contribute to antimicrobial resistance.
The bill would also ban the routine, or nontherapeutic, use of antibiotics in food-producing animals, similar to legislation Denmark enacted for poultry and pork in 1999.
Groups like the Pew Health Group and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) view PAMTA as critical for public health. The meat industry and AVMA believe the bill, and others like it, would have “adverse effects on animal and public health.”
The briefings were put on in conjunction with honorary hosts Congressman Kurt Scharder (D-OR) and Senator John Ensign (R-NV), the only veterinarians serving in Congress.
PAMTA was written and originally introduced by the only microbiologist serving in Congress, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-CA).