The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2011, HR 965 would dramatically curb the non-therapeutic use of antibiotic in food animals. It’s a good bill, currently in the House Subcommittee on Health. A parallel bill was just introduced in the Senate. Some comments:
- Policy may finally catch up to science here: we’ve known for years that non-therapeutic use is a serious public health issue.
- Farmers won’t restrict use on their own due to the collective action problem (nontherapeutic use in feed promotes weight gain = profits). Labeling options (antibiotic-free chicken) are a tiny slice of the US meat market.
- HR 965 won’t change any rules for pets, sick animals, and non-animal agricultural use (such as streptomycin on apples and pears to control fire blight).
Suggestions for improvements:
- From the company’s perspective, this is another example of antibiotic stewardship undercutting their markets, without compensation. This measure should be paired with pay-for-performance antibiotic incentives in human health to encourage both healthy innovation and appropriate use. In addition, antibiotic incentive bills (such as the GAIN bill) should condition financial incentives on achievement of public health goals like the dramatic reduction in agricultural use.
- HR 965 appears to cover all antibiotics useful in human health, but I’m unclear why fluoroquinolones aren’t specifically mentioned (they appear to be covered in the “catch-all” clause).
- US farmers should be concerned about competition from other countries not covered by these rules, especially since the WTO treaties have been interpreted to exclude many “process” restrictions (see Tuna/Dolphin and EU Beef Hormones).