Farmers urged to cut antibiotics

28 June 1999

Farmers urged to cut antibiotics

By Johann Tasker

FARMERS organisations and pharmaceutical companies have teamed up to encourage producers to reduce antibiotics in livestock production.

A new umbrella group launched this morning (Monday) in London is intended to promote the prudent use of veterinary antibiotics in the food chain.

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) is being backed by the National Farmers Union and antibiotics manufacturers.

A four-page brochure outlining how pig and poultry producers can reduce the need for antibiotics was published at todays launch.

The brochure will be distributed to producers at key agricultural events, and similar guidelines for the dairy, beef and sheep sectors are in the pipeline.

The RUMA group is being chaired by Brian Jennings, who is also chairman of the animal welfare committee of the National Farmers Union.

“Antibiotics have made a major contribution to animal health and welfare over several decades, and are a precious resource which must be used wisely,” he said.

The move is being seen as an attempt to help farmers address increasing public concern over the issue of antibiotic growth promoters in animal feed.

A European Union ban on four antibiotics used as growth promoters in livestock rations comes into force this Wednesday (1 July).

Various reports over recent months have claimed that the use of antibiotics in agriculture could lead to humans becoming resistant to antibiotic medicines.

European agriculture ministers agreed last December ban on the inclusion in feed of virginiamycin, tylosin phosphate, spiramycin and zinc bacitracin.

The ban came into effect on 1 January, but member states were given until the end of this month to use up old stocks and make changes in production systems.

Campaigners against antibiotics in animal feed now want that ban extended to cover a fifth antibiotic, avilamycin.

The Soil Association claims that avilamycin-resistant bacteria have already been found in livestock products.

It says the same bacteria are cross-resistant to Ziracin, a medicinal product being developed for the treatment of otherwise incurable superbugs in hospitals.

Elanco, the pharmaceutical company behind avilamycin, says the antibiotic is one of the most effective growth promoters left, when used responsibly.

Farming organisations backing the RUMA Alliance include the British Pig Association, the National Beef Association and the National Sheep Association.

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