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Home  |  The Future of the Family Farm  |  Antibiotics on the Farm

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Drugs at the Dinner Table

Levy raised a bunch of chickens to find out, and sure enough, the bacteria in the birds that munched antibiotics got resistant almost overnight. Now Levy pictured a scenario: You sit down for dinner. You eat a chicken breast that's still got some resistant bacteria on it. Then you get sick and go to the doctor, but the antibiotics won't work.

Levy says doctors who prescribe too many drugs are still the biggest cause of the problem, but, he warns, "farms are definitely part of the problem."

Levy did this study back in the 1970s, and officials at the Food and Drug Administration got so alarmed that they decided to banish some of the main antibiotics from farms. But the meat industry went straight to Capitol Hill, and congressmen ordered FDA to back off.

Now here it is decades later. The nation's farms are using more drugs than ever. Doctors are seeing patients with infections like salmonella that half a dozen antibiotics can't treat. Levy says the problem could be affecting your family.

"I'd be amazed if a large proportion ... 20, 30 percent ... has not had, has not confronted an antibiotic resistance problem," says Levy. "Many, many people in the United States are suffering in one way or another, some worse. Some have untreatable infections; some have died in the United States."

Levy says doctors who prescribe too many drugs are still the biggest cause of the problem, but, he warns, "Farms are definitely part of the problem."

Read the Animal Health Institute's official report denouncing the FDA's on-going move to ban a popular antibiotic on chicken farms.

Go to the Animal Health Institute's Web site

Agribusiness executives say there is no problem with antibiotics on farms.

Richard Carnevale speaks for the country's leading drug companies, like Bayer, Pfizer, Monsanto. They have a coalition called the Animal Health Institute. . . Carnevale says if the government cracks down on antibiotics, it could hurt the food supply.

"If you take growth promoters out of the food supply , then animals are not as productive as they were before. They don't resist disease, so there's going to be more animals getting sick. The price of food is going to go upor animals that are unhealthier are going to get into the food supply."

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