Target: Former FDA Commissioners David Kessler and Donald Kennedy
Goal: Thank two former FDA Commissioners for supporting the movement to stop the overuse of antibiotics on livestock
Two former FDA Commissioners recently published separate op-eds– in the New York Times and Washington Post – calling attention to the problem of antibiotic-resistant diseases. While their opinions differ on how best to transform the agriculture industry, both agree that the threat from drug-resistant superbugs is growing. We’ve waited too long, they said. We must act now. Applaud former FDA Commissioners David Kessler and Donald Kennedy for urging action to reverse antibiotic abuse in the livestock industry.
In 1977, the FDA issued warnings that the non-medical use of antibiotics on livestock was creating dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria. The FDA held hearings and began to formulate a plan to reverse the practice, until Congress shut it down. In the 36 years since, hardly anything has been done. Now, what began as a small problem could quickly grow into a medical crisis.
Over 80 percent of all antibiotic sales in the U.S. go to agriculture. The drugs are regularly fed to animals in low doses in order to boost growth as well as to stave off the spread of diseases caused from forcing animals into cramped, unsanitary conditions. If feedlots would allow adequate space for each animal, the need for prophylactic antibiotics would greatly diminish. Apparently, this hasn’t proved profitable for companies, especially when antibiotics can be had for cheap.
Unfortunately, many of those same antibiotics are essential in modern medicine, and they are losing their effectiveness. Antibiotics have allowed doctors to perform routine surgeries without their patients having to risk life-threatening infections. Without them, many advanced medical practices could not be done, including chemotherapy and organ transplants. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs threaten to return our medical advances back hundreds of years. Today, hundreds of thousands of people are infected by drug-resistant diseases they pick up during their stay at a hospital.
While the medical community’s excessive application of antibiotics is partially to blame, scientists have made it clear that the agriculture industry is contributing to the problem. Kennedy, who was FDA Commissioner from 1977 to 1979, believes that finalizing a voluntary guidance for meat producers is enough to make them change their policies. Kessler, FDA Commissioner from 1990 to 1997, doesn’t think this is enough. Rather, he believes Congress must make compliance mandatory and champions two separate bills currently passing through the Senate and the House.
The U.S. meat industry must stop feeding antibiotics to its animals. That two former government officials who were very close to the issue are lending their voice to the movement is a hopeful sign. Commend former Commissioners Kennedy and Kessler for speaking out against the abuse of antibiotics on livestock.
Dear Donald Kennedy and David Kessler,
I am writing to thank you for lending your voice to the movement to end the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture.
Since your time as FDA Commissioner, little has been done to reverse the growing problem of antibiotic abuse in the livestock industry. The medical community is becoming increasingly aware about the dangers of over-prescribing antibiotics and consumers are beginning to follow suit, reserving the use of these powerful drugs for times of utmost necessity. Our most valuable drugs are losing their effectiveness. The agriculture industry needs to do their part in reversing this frightening trend.
An estimated 18,000 Americans were killed last year from antibiotic-resistant Staph infections. It is leaping from hospital to hospital, and recent findings show that some strains of the bacteria can be transferred from livestock to humans. If other such superbugs break out on a massive scale, U.S. hospitals and the healthcare system at large could be crippled.
It’s time we did something about antibiotic resistant diseases. As former Commissioner at the FDA, it is important to let your stance be known. Change should have come decades ago, but it’s not too late to stave off the worst from happening. Thank you for voicing your support to end the use of antibiotics in livestock.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: epSos.de via Flickr