Nov. 8, 2005 – A recent academic study found that antibiotics fed to farm animals to promote growth transfers to food crops consumed by humans through manure used as fertilizer. The conclusion adds to environmentalistsâ€™ concerns over the long-term safety of the US food supply.
According to the study, published in the Journal of Environmental Quality last month, three test crops â€“ corn, green onions and cabbage â€“ were found to absorb chlortetracycline through the soil. The drug, which is part of the tetracycline class of antibiotics, is often administered to pigs and other farmed animals as part of their food. Since the animals cannot process all of the drug, it is passed along in feces, which are then packaged and sold for use as fertilizer.
Earlier studies examining the use of antibiotics in animal feed found that their presence can kill or stunt plant growth. The overuse of antibiotics can also contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and germ strains.
In a statement yesterday, Keep Antibiotics Working, a group opposing "antibiotic overuse," called on lawmakers to support measures in the US House and Senate prohibiting the use of antibiotics made for human use in animal feed.
The federal Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2005 would also require pharmaceutical companies to report how much of their product is used for pharmaceutical purposes.
While the exact amount of antibiotics is not reported by drug companies, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that as much as 25 million pounds, about 70 percent, of the nationâ€™s annual drug sales are to agricultural outfits. The organization is urging government bodies to act quicker to secure the nationâ€™s food and water supply and prevent more potentially dangerous germs and bacteria from becoming resistant to drugs.