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Human Hazard?

June 6, 2008

Des Moines, IA – Congress is hearing about possible dangers to human health with the routine use of antibiotics in confinement livestock operations. On Thursday, Robert Martin, executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Production, testified before a U.S. House subcommittee that routine use of those drugs can lead to antibiotic resistance in people.

"The rather indiscriminate use, that has been done to promote weight gain and feed conversion and feed efficiency, is an inappropriate use of very special drug treatment."

Fred Kirschenmann, with the Leopold Center at Iowa State University, says livestock producers are concerned that, without the option of using antibiotics, their production costs will increase. However, he says using antibiotics only when animals are sick, rather than using them as a feed additive, could become a sales advantage for some producers.

"I think it can become a marketing tool, because it increases the desirability of the product in the marketplace."

The Pew Commission has spent the past two years investigating the impact of intensive livestock confinement practices. It has made proposals that include increased veterinary oversight of antibiotic use, and the development of a better system for tracking drug resistance.

Martin's testimony, and a full copy of the report, can be found online at

Dick Layman/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - IA