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  • Writer's pictureJoan Rothchild Hardin

Factory Farming Produces Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Information from the International Master on Sustainable Development (Behrend, 2013):

  • 80% of all antibiotics used in the US are administered to farmed animals to promote growth and prevent disease. That amounts to about 29 million pounds of antibiotics per year.

  • These antibiotics produce drug-resistant “superbugs” in farm animals and humans, causing widespread disease, deficiency, and death.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 76 million cases of food borne illnesses a year and 5,000 deaths a year from viral and bacterial pathogens related to the animal farming industry.

  • The treatment of these illnesses costs $26 billion in healthcare costs annually.

In the US and around the world, antibiotics from every major class used for humans are also used in agriculture. Antibiotic-resistant  bacteria spread from farm animals to humans via food, animal-to-human transfer on farms and in rural areas, and through contaminated waste entering the environment. (Food & Water Watch, 2015) Antibiotics resistance is now a very serious global problem. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply causing more harm. Bacteria can do this through several mechanisms.

In September 2012,  more than 150 well-respected scientists and 50 farmers sent a letter  to the US Federal Drug Administration and the US Congress, presenting overwhelming evidence that the use of antibiotics in livestock production poses a serious risk to human health. The letter pointed out that: Hundreds of scientific research studies and analyses by international scientific bodies support the conclusion that the overuse of critical human drugs in food animal production is linked to human diseases increasingly impervious to antibiotic treatment, putting human lives at unnecessary risk. Also in September 2012, Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit organization advocating for safe food and water, issued a report called Antibiotics Resistance 101 describing the reality of antibiotics use in factory farming and its seriously negative impacts on the environment, the economy, and the health of all living things – including humans, animals and plants.

The FDA issued ineffective VOLUNTARY guidelines.

This graphic shows how  the antibiotic resistance cycle operates:

Examples of superbugs that have developed from the overuse of antibiotics, particularly from factory farmed animals:

See Food and Water Watch’s site for more information on factory farming, antibiotic resistance, and the many other issues they’re involved in – including labeling of GMO foods, fracking, and water privatization. Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.

REFERENCES Behrend, K.E. (2013). Rural Development: Antibiotics in Factory Farming. International Master on Sustainable Development EOI. See: Food & Water Watch. (2015). Antibiotic Resistance 101: How Antibiotic Misuse on Factory Farms Can Make You Sick. See: © Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Comments submitted prior to 8/25/2021

Yes, this is a major reason I don’t eat meats. The risk is not only to human health but degrades the wellbeing of animals bred and raised under these unnatural conditions, currently and going forward. The overcrowding and constant exposure to ammonia and fecal fumes make factory farms bacterial hothouses hostile to the animals themselves. It’s a lose lose lose equation: humans, animals, and the planet. As the “Are you at risk” graphic says, eating locally grown or organic meats is no guarantee against the superbugs. Sobering.



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