Organic Center Report Emphasizes Organic’s Role in Reducing Antibiotic Resistance

A new report from the Organic Center, Organic Food and Farming as a Tool to Combat Antibiotic Resistance and Protect Public Health, addresses the problem of the widespread use of antibiotics in conventional animal production, which threatens human health because it creates disease-causing organisms that are resistant to antibiotics.

The report, written by Organic Center staffers Tracy Misiewicz and Jessica Shade, demonstrates that organic farming is the most effective way to address this problem, particularly in the absence of meaningful regulation of antibiotic use in conventional livestock and poultry.

Misiewicz and Shade report the shocking statistic that 80% of antibiotics in the U.S. is administered to animals raised for food. Conventional livestock and poultry producers routinely use medicated feeds to promote animal growth and prevent disease in animals kept in confinement.

In contrast, antibiotic use is banned in certified organic livestock and poultry production, though organic producers are required to treat animals with antibiotics when necessary to restore their health. Animals that are treated with antibiotics are not allowed to be sold as organic.

Widespread use of antibiotics causes microbes, including disease-causing bacteria, to develop resistance to the antibiotics. Humans can be exposed to antibiotic-resistant microbes if they work with livestock or consume conventional meat products. If they become ill from this exposure, antibiotics will be ineffective in curing the illness.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has attempted to regulate use of antibiotics in animal production but the voluntary measures FDA implemented have not made a dent in the volume of antibiotics fed to animals.

The report concludes that organic farming supports farmworker and community health because it does not contribute to the development of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.