Monday, March 12, 2012

Help keep our antibiotics working!

AliciaThis December, I caught a nasty food-borne illness called Campylobacter jejuni. Yes, it’s difficult to spell, but the route of infection is pretty simple: it comes from contaminated, usually undercooked or improperly handled meat and poultry. The gruesome details aside, I ended up in a local emergency room, extremely feverish and in pain, where the doctors put me on an IV to get re-hydrated and performed tests to see if the infection had “sensitivities.” Huh?

I lived with that thing for more than a week and I can tell you it was not sensitive—that thing was mean. But what the doctors meant, I learned, was whether the infection would respond to antibiotics (I thank my lucky stars that it did).

The problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a growing one, one that has raised the concerns of federal officials and several medical organizations—and one that relates to our farmers. The most recent estimates from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration report that nearly 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are administered to farm animals, not because they are sick, but to promote faster growth and compensate for crowded living conditions where infection can sweep through a herd quickly.

This subtherapeutic antibiotic use is common practice in livestock and poultry industries. Even though it has stirred controversy for decades, with evidence indicating it has increased the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and contributed to contaminated food products and related outbreaks, attempted reforms have met strong resistance from corporate livestock interests and pharmaceutical companies. Almost zero progress has been made at the federal level in restricting the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics on the farm.

We can change that. Together, we can show that both farmers and eaters care about the misuse of antibiotics and demand action to protect these life-saving drugs. We can show that we know there’s a better way and that we deserve food without the risk of contamination. Join me! Head to the Whitehouse.gov petition page and ask the Obama Administration to keep its promise to limit the abuse of antibiotics in livestock agriculture.

I signed because, frankly, I shiver at the thought of what my infection would have been like if it didn’t respond to antibiotics. I signed because antibiotic-resistant infections cost the country $20 billion annually and the lives of far too many consumers (check out this month’s Ask Farm Aid to learn more). And I signed because I know there are so many family farmers out there, like this month’s Farmer Hero Stanley Hall, who revolutionize the way they farm to account for the health of their animals, the public and our environment.

Help me make sure we get enough signatures to get the White House to respond!

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