Letter: Antibiotic resistance is a huge threat, and concentrated feedlots make it worse
According to the CDC, extensive use of antibiotics globally in agriculture to prevent and treat infections and promote growth is a leading cause of emerging antibiotic resistance.
Last fall Becker County and Spring Creek Township were confronted with the issue of a 2,000 sow and 1,000 growing pig feedlot being planned for the township.
These large corporate concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs) are spreading, unchecked, throughout the Midwest and Minnesota. Make no mistake, the issue of these operations has not and will not be leaving Becker County and our neighbors anytime soon.
There are a litany of reasons why CAFOs are dangerous and a largely misguided concept.
However, I’d like to make you aware of a frightening human public health risk associated with large numbers of animals (livestock) confined in a CAFO. This huge risk is the ever-growing resistance by bacteria and fungi to the infection treating and often life-saving antibiotics and antifungals used by our healthcare professionals.
Did you know that the United States Centers for Disease Control in 2019 (most recent date available), reported 2.8 million antibiotic resistant infections, resulting in 35,000 deaths of our fellow citizens?
Did you know that according to the CDC, in addition to inappropriate and overuse of antibiotics in humans, extensive use of antibiotics globally in agriculture to prevent and treat infections and promote growth is a leading cause of emerging antibiotic resistance?
While using antibiotics to solely promote livestock growth was banned in the U.S. in 2017, significant use to prevent disease in animals continues. Keeping huge numbers of confined animals healthy is an extremely daunting task, which should be no surprise to anyone.
Most recent statistics from FDA sales data indicate that 60-75% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are purchased and utilized in agriculture. A Feb. 6, 2023 article in the journal Nature indicates that antibiotic use in animal farming is expected to continue to grow into the next decade – despite all efforts to curtail their use.
Antibiotics utilized in large, animal-confining feedlots transmit to humans by the food we ingest and the huge quantities of manure (fertilizer) that inevitably make their way into our waterways and groundwater.
This persistent exposure to antibiotics from ALL sources opens the door for bacteria and fungi to evolve and resist these essential medications.
In response, hospitals and clinics have constructed stewardship programs aimed at diminishing unwarranted antibiotic use in humans. Despite these efforts, health care providers are already struggling mightily to stay ahead of these “superbugs” with an ever-shrinking antibiotic arsenal.
They are even confronting situations where there are no antibiotic choices left to treat often life-threatening infections. While it may be easy to believe that this is someone else’s problem in a far-removed place, guess again!
Becker County residents and others can help confront this public health issue in part, by promoting and supporting the socially responsible family farms and livestock operations that dot our region.
Let’s reject large corporate CAFOs that answer only to obscure owners and shareholders.