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For years Congress has annually considered legislation that would restrict the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. This year's House version is called the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. On Monday, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York held hearings on the act. We submitted a statement in favor of the bill's passage. Here's why.
First, every major public health organization has recognized the critical and urgent need to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. It is estimated that 70 percent of the antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs used in the United States are fed to farm animals for non-therapeutic purposes, mostly for triggering rapid growth and to compensate for crowded, unsanitary, and stressful farming and transportation conditions.
In a March 2003 report, the National Academy of Sciences stated that a decrease in antimicrobial use in human medicine alone will have little effect on the current situation and that substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate overuse in animals and agriculture.
The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the American Medical Association, among others, have all urged such action as necessary to protect the effectiveness of antibiotics to treat both human and animal illnesses. The continual feeding of antibiotics to farm animals is already outlawed in the European Union.