The Latest Tool in Combating Antibiotic Resistance: Organic Farming

Friday, September 23, 2016

If you’ve been hesitant to jump on the organic bandwagon, a recent report by the Organic Center may just change your mind.

The researchers found that organic farming practices could reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

And this week, the United Nations General Assembly passed a historic declaration aimed at slowing the spread of antibiotic resistance. The declaration requires that countries come up with two-year plans that address antibiotic resistance.

One sector that needs critical attention is agriculture.

Roughly 70 to 80 percent of all antibiotics consumed in the U.S. go to livestock, as my colleague Emily Cassidy described in her latest blog. Most antibiotics are routinely given to livestock to promote growth or to prevent infections that may come from poor living conditions – not to treat diseases in animals. The overuse of antibiotics in agriculture has driven the rapid evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which jeopardizes the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs.

One of the clearest consumer benefits of organic is its prohibition of the use of antibiotics in livestock. The Organic Center study says the agricultural sector should look to organic production methods as a “simple and effective means to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and to protect the health of consumers.”

Combating antibiotic resistance is hardly the only benefit of organic farming, however, U.S. use of organic methods has not kept pace with Americans’ growing demand for organic products. With smarter investments, Congress could help more farmers transition to organic, and better position U.S. farmers to meet the growing demand for organic products in domestic and export markets.  


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