Coalition urges Speaker: 'No antibiotics amendment'

by Bryan Salvage
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DES MOINES, IOWA — On July 24, the Coalition for Animal Health, a group of agricultural organizations including the National Pork Producers Council, urged Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to not allow a bill banning certain animal-health products to be tacked on to any pending legislation.

Representing veterinarians, farmers and ranchers, food and feed producers and animal medicine manufacturers, the organizations asked that the "Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009" (H.R. 1549) not be added to bills now being considered, including food-safety and health-care reform legislation, in a letter to Ms. Pelosi.

H.R. 1549 would ban products that are used to prevent and control diseases from being used in livestock and poultry animal health. Farmers only would be allowed to use animal health products that treat diseases. The bill also would require all "critical antimicrobial animal drugs" to go through a second U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process within two years of enactment of the legislation.

Currently, an animal drug maker must demonstrate a product is effective and safe for animals and for the environment to win approval. F.D.A. also must determine new antibiotics for food animals will not harm human health.

Although the legislation purports to address an increase in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans, the coalition pointed out that numerous risk assessments, including one conducted by F.D.A., have shown risk levels associated with antibiotic use in agriculture that are extremely low. Nationally recognized scientific studies have also shown that the removal of important animal health products could actually increase food-safety risks.

The coalition also noted in its letter the food-safety and health-care reform bills are based on the important principle of prevention.

"It would be ironic and inconsistent to add an amendment that would remove important tools for disease prevention used in veterinary medicine," the coalition wrote. "Veterinary medicine has long employed prevention as the preferred option for dealing with diseases, and antibiotics are an important tool in the prevention toolbox."

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