Antibiotics on the farm: learning from past mistakes

Antibiotics are widely used in agriculture and although they can increase food production, their use is associated with antimicrobial resistance. Regulatory failures have contributed to the problem and a global, adaptable reforms are needed.

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Antibiotics are not only key in human medicine, but also in food production. Since their introduction in the 1930s, they have been used widely in farms, fisheries and processing plants. Initially, this was a story of success as antibiotics can prevent and treat disease and increase the yield of food. However, it became quickly clear that agricultural antibiotics contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance. Unfortunately, not all countries assessed and acted on the risk of agricultural antibiotic use in the same way resulting in a patchy and inconsistent regulatory framework. During a time of growing concerns about resistance, this article reconstructs the origins and global spread of agricultural antibiotics and outlines what we can learn from past regulatory failures, highlighting the need for a global, adaptable approach.

By Palgrave Communications


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