NYTimes: FDA creeps forward

No Science + Misunderstanding Science = Junk Editorial.

The New York Times editorializes,

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration took a small step toward reducing the routine use of antibiotics in livestock, a practice that creates drug-resistant pathogens and threatens the effectiveness of some antibiotics in human medicine. It restricted the use of a class of antibiotics called cephalosporins. Because they require a prescription, farm veterinarians use them less than other antibiotics, like penicillin.

While the move is important, it is far from sufficient. In 2008, the F.D.A. proposed to tightly limit the use of cephalosporins, but this new rule falls well short of that, thanks to intense lobbying by farm and pharmaceutical industries. The new rule will ban the injection of the antibiotics into chicken eggs and halt the practice of giving large, sustained doses to cattle and pigs. But it still allows widespread use in animals like rabbits and ducks, and veterinarians will still be able to use the drugs in ways not specifically approved by the F.D.A.

The agency needs to deal squarely and swiftly with the threat posed by agricultural antibiotics. The sea of drugs on farms creates a perfect environment for the evolution of pathogens resistant to antibiotics, which have been found in humans with increasing frequency. And new studies show that drug-resistant germs persist even in the soil and groundwater of farms that have given up antibiotic use. It’s time for the F.D.A. to consider the public’s health as carefully as it considers the interests of intensive agriculture and pharmaceutical companies. [Emphasis added]

Despite the Times‘ ominous language, there is no scientific data showing that farm use of antibiotics, regardless of how reckless it might be, has caused any detectable antibiotic resistance in humans.

Also, bacteria pathogens don’t “evolve” on a timescale that’s meaningful to us. “Resistant” bacteria may survive and multiply through natural selection, but they don’t “evolve.”

One thought on “NYTimes: FDA creeps forward”

  1. Humans are living longer and more and more people are being fed by agriculture than ever before in human history. Seems to me that the biggest threat from agriculture recently has come from tainted “organic” produce, not modern medicine.

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