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Daily News Blog

06
Oct

Pesticide Trade Group Wrote U.S. Government Policy to Undermine International Efforts to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

(Beyond Pesticides, October 6, 2020) Despite the rapid rise of antibiotic resistance in the United States and throughout the world, new documents find the Trump Administration worked on behalf of a chemical industry trade group to weaken international guidelines aimed at slowing the crisis. Emails obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through the Freedom of Information Act show that officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) worked to downplay the role of industrial agriculture and pesticide use in drug-resistant infections.

“From everything we’ve seen, it’s clear that this administration believes rolling back regulations and protecting industry profits is more important than protecting public health,” said Nathan Donley, PhD, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, to the New York Times (NYT). “But what these emails show is that the Department of Agriculture isn’t just soliciting their input. They’re seeking their approval on what the government’s position should be.”

Ray McAllister, PhD, of the pesticide industry trade group Croplife America, sent an email in March of 2018 to U.S. officials, wanting to “make certain” that the United Nation’s (UN) Codex Alimentarius, a set of international guidelines and standards established to protect consumer health, made no mention of how fungicides contribute to antibiotic resistance. Neena Anandaraman, DVM, with USDA’s Office of the Chief Scientist, deferred to Dr. McAllister and allowed him to provide line edits to the document, saying “We aren’t crop experts,” rather than deferring to other experts in the federal government. Dr. McAllister further suggested changes that eliminate any connection between crop production and the transmission of human pathogens.

According to NYT, other countries on the Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance were outraged by the industry-fueled changes, which resulted in significant delays. USDA told NYT, “It is the normal course of business for U.S.D.A. to solicit input from industry when developing a technical document in order to understand current practice in the United States.” While touching base with industry for their viewpoint is not in itself problematic, it becomes significantly different when that industry is allowed to establish U.S. policy.

There is overwhelming evidence that agricultural pesticide use is contributing to antibiotic resistance.

A 2015 study found that the herbicides glyphosate, 2,4-D, and dicamba all have the potential to induce antibiotic resistance in Salmonella and E.coli. In a 2014 study from the United Kingdom, strains of Aspergillus fungi resistant to azole fungicides were found primarily in rural, agricultural areas.

That is unsurprising, as many of the same antibiotics and fungicides used to manage infections on crops are the same used for human medicine. While overuse in the medical field remains a concern, agricultural applications, which likely occur more frequently and on a larger scale, are major contributors to the crisis.

A 2018 study published in Nature Sustainability found that Earth has surpassed “planetary boundaries” for pesticide and antimicrobial resistance. “Without new approaches, going to hospital in the future will increasingly become a gamble. More patients will get unlucky, and become infected with untreatable or hard to treat bacteria. This is an urgent risk to human society,” study coauthor Søgaard Jørgensen, PhD, said in a press release.

Yet, despite these concerning data, the U.S. government listened to those producing, profiting, and perpetuating toxic chemicals, rather than safety and reform-minded experts. It is a trend Beyond Pesticides has reported on very often as of late; last month a similar story found that the U.S. acted on behalf of Bayer to stop Thailand’s government from banning glyphosate.

Help stop the pesticide industry from running our federal agencies by contacting your federal elected officials. Start by telling your U.S. Senator to cosponsor the Farm System Reform Act, a bill introduced by Senator Cory Booker which would eliminate factory farming, and make important strides in combating antibiotic resistance. Follow up with a phone call to their offices, and mention Croplife’s iniquitous influence in U.S. decision making. Although the draft UN guidance contains blatant omissions relating fungicide and other crop pesticide use to antibiotic resistance, there may still be time to revise the document before it is finalized later this year.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: New York Times, Center Biological Diversity

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  • Archives

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    • Announcements (586)
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