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WHO proposes ending antibiotics for prevention in food animals

Legislative Watch: USDA, NPPC disagree with WHO's stance; preparing for life after NAFTA; more schools joining Meatless Mondays; ag exports up 8%; Doud nomination on hold.

The World Health Organization is proposing ending the use of antibiotics in food animals for prevention and growth promotion. In the recently published “WHO Guidelines on Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals,” the WHO says that reducing antibiotic use can reduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food animals by up to 39%.

The guidelines make a number of recommendations including:
• Overall reduction in use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals.|
• Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for growth promotion.
• Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for prevention of infectious diseases that have not yet been clinically diagnosed.
• Antimicrobials classified as critically important for human medicine should not be used for control of the dissemination of a clinically diagnosed infectious disease identified within a group of food-producing animals.
• Medically important antimicrobials that are not currently used in food production should not be used in the future in food production including in food-producing animals or plants.

The WHO’s new guidelines acknowledge that farms would be justified in giving an antibiotic to healthy animals if a veterinarian determines that “there is a high risk of spread of a particular infectious disease.”

USDA disagrees with WHO’s new guidelines. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA acting chief scientist, says “The WHO guidelines are not in alignment with U.S. policy and are not supported by sound science. The recommendations erroneously conflate disease prevention with growth promotion in animals.

“The WHO previously requested that the standards for on-farm antibiotic use in animals be updated through a transparent, consensus, science-based process of CODEX. However, before the first meeting of the CODEX was held, the WHO released these guidelines, which according to language in the guidelines are based on ‘low-quality evidence,’ and in some cases, ‘very low-quality evidence.’

“Under current Food and Drug Administration policy, medically important antibiotics should not be used for growth promotion in animals. In the U.S., the FDA allows for the use of antimicrobial drugs in treating, controlling and preventing disease in food-producing animals under the professional oversight of licensed veterinarians. While the WHO guidelines acknowledge the role of veterinarians, they would also impose unnecessary and unrealistic constraints on their professional judgement.”

The National Pork Producers Council strongly disagrees with WHO. NPPC says, “A ban on disease prevention uses of antibiotics in food-animal production being advocated by the World Health Organization would be ill-advised and wrong. Denying pigs, cows and chickens necessary antibiotics would be unethical and immoral, leading to animal suffering and possibly death, and could compromise the nation’s food system.”

USDA prepares in case of NAFTA withdraw
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told reporters this week that USDA is preparing in case the United States pulls out of the North American Free Trade Agreement as reported by Politico.

Perdue says, “We’re talking with the administration and Congress about some mitigation efforts if that were to occur; about how we could protect our producers with that farm safety net based on prices that may respond negatively to any kind of NAFTA withdrawal.”

The next round of NAFTA renegotiations is Nov. 17-21 in Mexico City.

More schools to join Meatless Mondays
Starting next spring, 15 Brooklyn, N.Y., schools will be joining the Meatless Mondays’ campaign by serving all vegetarian breakfast and lunch meals every Monday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says, “Cutting back a little on meat will help make our city healthier and our planet stronger for generations to come.”

According to the New York City press release, in 2015 less than 20% of New York City children ages 6-12 ate five or more fruits and vegetables a day. “Eating fruits and vegetables provides important vitamins and nutrients, and can reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Furthermore, Meatless Mondays can also help reduce carbon footprint and preserve resources like water.”

Ag exports hit $140.5 billion in FY ’17
According to the USDA, U.S. agricultural exports reached $140.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 which is 8% higher value than fiscal year ’16. The increase is due to an increase in bulk commodities — wheat up 21% in value compared to fiscal year ’16; soybeans up 17%; corn up 6%; and cotton 70% in value and 50% in volume.

Doud nomination on hold
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has put a hold on Gregg Doud’s nomination to be U.S. Trade Representative’s chief agricultural negotiator. Flake has concerns over President Trump’s proposal in the NAFTA negotiations regarding an anti-dumping provision that Florida tomato growers want put into NAFTA. Arizona importers have major concerns with this proposal.

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