Organic farming and antibiotics – problems and solutions.

The development of antibiotic resistance is an inevitable process, but it is greatly encouraged by misuse and overuse. All use of antibiotics can cause resistance to increase, but low level use over prolonged periods is more likely to cause problems than full therapeutic use for short periods.

Antibiotics are a finite resource and there is growing pressure for them to be used as sparingly as possible in all human and veterinary medicine. No new antibiotic classes have been developed since the mid-1980s, ‘peak antibiotics’ would have been in the mid-1950s and we are unlikely ever to get better antibiotics than we currently have.

Organic farmers already use antibiotics with extreme care, avoiding routine preventative use as well as antibiotics critically important in human medicine, except in very rare situations. But is there a danger that in their caution some organic farmers will not use antibiotics when they really should do so? Where should we draw the line?

Organic farmers also observe extended withdrawal periods after use. These can greatly increase costs, especially in dairy farming. Are these really necessary and are there alternatives that genuinely help to reduce the need for treatment? Also, do we really need to avoid top of the range antibiotics in intramammary tubes, even if these are related to important medical drugs, when any bacteria and therefore any resistance will be killed by pasteurisation?


Theme: animal husbandry
Published: 22nd January 2014
Author: Richard Young