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Colette Whelan is working to ban the unnecessary use of antibiotics on factory farms!

Colette Whelan

More than 36 years ago the U.S. Food & Drug Administration acknowledged there was a problem with the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. In March 2012, the courts forced the FDA's hand. Finally, last week (December 11, 2013), the FDA announced a plan to curb the routine use of sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to treat and fatten up livestock on factory farms.

But the mostly voluntary, loophole-riddled “plan” falls far short of what scientists say is needed to stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that now pose a real and widespread danger to public health.

Please tell the FDA: We need a mandatory ban on sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for livestock—not weak, voluntary guidance.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y. 25th District), the only microbiologist in Congress and author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), called the FDA’s plan inadequate. In a press release Slaughter said, “The FDA’s voluntary guidance is an inadequate response to the overuse of antibiotics on the farm with no mechanism for enforcement and no metric for success.”

Avinash Kar, a health attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the organizations that sued the FDA in 2012, told the Washington Post that the policy is “an early holiday gift to industry” and a “hollow gesture that does little to tackle a widely recognized threat to human health.”

The FDA’s Guidance for Industry #213, asks drug makers to voluntarily change the labels on drugs, so that they no longer state that the medicines can be used to make animals grow faster. (Note: They’re not being asked to actually change the drugs, just the labels).

Also, under the new policy farmers can no longer obtain antibiotics over the counter from a feed store. Instead, they will have to get a prescription from a licensed veterinarian. The new regulation applies only to drugs that are also used on humans, including penicillin, azithromycin and tetracycline.

Factory farms that agree to voluntarily comply with the FDA’s new rules will have three years before they actually have to implement them—if they choose to implement them at all. In her press release, Rep. Slaughter points out that according to OpenSecrets, of 225 lobbying reports filed last Congress on PAMTA, 195 (88 percent) were filed by organizations opposed to the legislation while only 30 (12 percent) were filed by organizations in favor of the legislation – almost a 7 to 1 ratio. OpenSecrets also reports major dollars (over $17 million just from a few groups) being used in lobbying against limits on antibiotic use in the first three quarters of this year alone.

Please take action today. Tell the FDA: We need a mandatory ban on sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for livestock—not weak, voluntary guidance.

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