October 29, 2014
The featured Frontline News documentary investigates the roots and ramifications of the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance. The US uses nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics each year to raise food animals.1, 2 This accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US.3
The ramifications of this routine practice can be seen in hospital wards across the nation, as it is one, if not the primary driver of antibiotic-resistant disease in humans.
According to CDC statistics,4 two million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a result of those infections.
In my view, this is a very compelling reason to switch to organic, grass-fed (pastured) varieties, as growth promoting drugs such as antibiotics are not permitted in organic farming.
Large-Scale Agriculture and Hospitals Breed Drug-Resistant Superbugs
One organism alone—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—now kills more Americans each year than the combined total of emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and homicide.5
The victims include young, otherwise healthy people, raising suspicions that the MRSA infections originate from the food they eat. Drug-resistant tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, and gonorrhea are also on the rise.
As reported by Frontline, researchers have found that people living close to confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) also suffer drug-resistant infections at much higher rates than others, again suggesting that antibiotic-resistant bacteria originate from large-scale agriculture.
Hospitals have traditionally been the primary source of dangerous infections. At present, one in 25 patients end up with a hospital-acquired infection, and many of these infections are drug resistant.
But it’s the use of antibiotics in agriculture that breeds these hardy bacteria most efficiently. And by allowing this practice to continue, simple infections will become increasingly lethal, and even minor routine surgeries become exceedingly risky.
One of the most prestigious research hospitals in the US recently struggled with an outbreak of a highly lethal antibiotic-resistant superbug, Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC), which spread from one patient to another in a highly complex and in some cases untraceable pattern.6 What’s worse, many of these bacteria, including KPC, have developed resistance to multiple drugs.
A 2013 paper by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) titled “Antibiotic Resistance in Foodborne Pathogens,”7 report that between 1973 and 2011, there were 55 antibiotic-resistant foodborne outbreaks in the US. More than half of these outbreaks involved pathogens resistant to five or more antibiotics!