Limiting antibiotics in livestock

A success to celebrate:
On July 28, 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took unprecendented action and for the first time withdrew approval for use of a some antibiotics in poultry. See news release. PCC was among the 300 groups that joined in the campaign that led to this success. The letter below is the third that PCC sent as part of the campaign over several years.

June 24, 2005

The Honorable Jim McDermott
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative McDermott:

On behalf of our ranchers, farmers and 37,000 members, please co-sponsor the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (HR 2562), which soon will be reintroduced to Congress. We do $89 million in business at seven stores in the Puget Sound region of Washington state, focusing on healthy foods and healthy communities. Supporting this proposed legislation will help limit the overuse of antibiotics in livestock and preserve the dwindling number of antibiotics available to treat human infections and protect public health.

Only two novel antibiotics have been developed in the last 30 years and very few antibiotics are in development, making it vital to preserve the effectiveness of existing antibiotics. An estimated 70 percent of the antibiotics used in this country are fed to farm animals for non-therapeutic purposes, to promote slightly faster growth and to control diseases related to overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Nearly half these antibiotics are identical or closely related to medicines for humans. This practice spurs development of antibiotic resistant bacteria that can be transferred to humans through food, workers and the environment.

This proposed bill would ban only non-therapeutic uses of drugs also are needed for humans. Antibiotics still could be used to treat sick animals and to treat an outbreak in a herd or flock. The bill also leaves farmers other options, including non-therapeutic use of antibiotics not used in human medicine, and improving animal husbandry standards such as those used in Europe and on many value-added U.S. farms employing sustainable and more humane ranching practices.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and others are urging reductions in antibiotic overuse in human medicine, yet agricultural overuse of antibiotics has received less attention. As the National Academy of Sciences notes, “A decrease in antimicrobial use in human medicine alone will have little effect on the current situation. Substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate overuse in animals and agriculture as well.”

We join 380 other organizations that already have endorsed this measure, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association. We hope you’ll contact the lead sponsor, Ohio Representative Sherrod Brown, to co-sponsor this important public health legislation.


Tracy Wolpert
PCC Natural Markets

Related Reading

Preservation of Antibiotics Act 2007

To U.S. House and Senate committee members, urging support for S. 549 and HR 962; legislation would restrict antibiotics as a feed-additive for livestock. The 2007 bill is the latest of several similar efforts, with signatories added over the years.

Action on antibiotic overuse in animal production

Signed letter by the Pew Charitable Trusts to President Obama asking him to limit antibiotic overuse for food animal production and require veterinary oversight of antibiotics used on the farm.

Organic ruminants need pasture and grass

Letter to the NOSB about a proposed exemption on pasturing slaughter stock.