In response to recent growing concerns about the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria, on Oct. 10 California governor Jerry Brown signed the strictest U.S. law to date regulating the use of antibiotics in agriculture. The new law will attempt to minimize the use of medically important antibiotics by requiring pre-approval by a veterinarian before human antibiotics can be used, and then only for disease treatment or prevention, not to promote growth.
Currently, the USDA regulates antibiotic use on a federal level, but not as strictly, allowing farmers to use human antibiotics to prevent diseases that have not yet occurred or to promote growth in livestock as well as treat sick animals. The recent measures are happening in response to growing concern over antibiotic resistant bacteria.
“I think the bill is basically doing something that we in California have been doing all along, which is phasing out antibiotic use,” said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation.
The law parallels an executive order signed by the president in Sept. 2014, which will require all medically important antibiotics to be phased out of use in agricultural settings by 2018 in an effort to minimize the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Alternatively, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the current concern about antibiotic use in agricultural settings is exaggerated and antibiotics are necessary for animal health and continued production of necessary amounts of animal products for human consumption.
“The use of antibiotics today is essential to ensure sufficient animal production to feed the planet,” said Bernard Vallat, director of OIE, in a press conference. “Without antibiotics there would be supply problems of animal protein for the human population.”