I didn't start out today to attack Republicans. And when I first saw this story I was more interested in the health consequences for all of us. According to testimony at a hearing of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday, July 14, 2010, the USDA believes it is likely that U.S. use of antibiotics in animal agriculture does lead to some cases of resistance in humans and the animals.
Why is this important, because as Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Principle Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, made clear in his testimony, the overall weight of evidence supports the conclusion that using antibiotics for production purposes in livestock farming (as growth promoters and to prevent rather than treat illness) is not in the interest of protecting and promoting public health.
That is a major story and has a real impact on us. A March 22, 2010, report from the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network reports that a superbug call C. difficile is multi-drug resistant and on the rise.
If it is not in our interest, shouldn't we stop it?
Now here is where the Republicans (who seem to care only about Big Business) come in.
Representative John Shimkus (R-IL 19) challenged Dr. Sharfstein about the soundness of the science upon which his findings rest. Mr. Shimkus, obviously unhappy with Dr. Sharfstein's testimony, badgered him to come up with a U.S. peer-reviewed study (which Dr. Sharfstein did -- a 2003 Institute of Medicine study) and then questioned the veracity of the findings. Dr. Sharfstein assured Mr. Shimkus that the Institute has a peer-review process in place and reminded him that "the Institute is considered our nation's leading scientific expert ... "
Dr. Ali Khan, Assistant Surgeon General and the Deputy Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), Center for Disease Control and Prevention, testified that there is unequivocal and compelling evidence that the use of antibiotics in farm animals leads to drug resistance that has an adverse impact on public health. He also faced questions from a visibly agitated Mr. Shimkus, who kept dismissing studies by the World Health Organization and others to request "real science," which, from his posturing, is evidently only that which supports Big Ag.
Mr. Shimkus played his role as Big Ag's Mouthpiece admirably. He questioned every statistic, slide, study, expert, institution, report or person cited that didn't agree with an antibiotic free-for-all in the farmyard. "So far there's nothing that links use in animals to a buildup of resistance in humans," he stated, recklessly ignoring all published science since 1968 and the testimony of the doctors his government has charged with protecting health, while making sure he gave Big Ag a clear, concise statement around which it can issue an indignant press release.
We don't need more hearings, we need action. H.R. 1549, Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, continues to languish in committee while a few elected officials spend the taxpayer's time and money to pretend the science they are calling for doesn't already exist in mountains.
If you (Representative John Shimkus) want to be a shill for Big Business you can be - I just hope you are exposed as the liar and hypocrite you are- but when it involves human health??? How can you look your children in the face and not worry your actions may kill or injure them?