Superbugs and Large-scale Use of Antibiotics in Livestock Feeding

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As the world’s population continues to grow exponentially, the area of arable farmland shrinks. As a result, new techniques in agriculture have been developed in order to produce more food using less land. Many of these techniques are considered innovative but come at the cost of the environment or human morality. One example, the large-scale use of antibiotics in livestock feeding, has become a staple of the American agriculture industry. Of all the agricultural advancements the industry has made since the days of the horse and plow, none has been as threatening to human health as the use of sub therapeutic levels of antibiotics (Schneider). Antibiotics are useful for sick animals, just as they are useful for sick humans. In the livestock industry, their indiscriminate use on healthy animals, while cost effective for the meat industry, results in the breeding of dangerous antibiotic bacteria called “superbugs” which have the potential to devastate consumers’ health. "We talk about a pre-antibiotic era and an antibiotic era,” CDC’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden said in his publication of “Antibiotic Resistance Threats”. "If we're not careful, we'll be in a post-antibiotic era. For some patients and some microbes, we're already there” (Kerestes, 2010). This scenario is just one of the many situations where short-term corporate profit is pitted against the environment, and in turn, consumers’ safety.

In the modern agriculture industry, antibiotics are regularly fed to livestock such as chicken, pigs, and cattle to increase the growth rate of these animals. The livestock industry currently feeds 70 percent of the national antibiotic supply to healthy livestock. The remaining 14 and 16 percent, respectively, are used to treat...

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... potential health effects that have been associated with CAFOs (gestation chambers), with issues ranging from respiratory disease for workers at the farms, air and groundwater contamination, and the creation and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The study also states that antibiotics and steroids used in CAFOs are being detected in the ground water and in private wells near these facilities and little to nothing is known about possible adverse health risks from chronic exposure to these contaminants.

“World's first lab-grown burger is eaten in London”, (August, 2013). BBC UK.

The future is now. Just this past summer in London, the first in vitro beef burger, created by a team of Dutch scientists, was eaten in a demonstration for the press. This will be meant to highlight how close we really are to being able to solve all of our issues.

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