Mike Apley on AMGP

Mike Apley on AMGP
The points brought up certainly have covered the overall complexity of
this issue. Growth promotion is the first and most easily contested
use by activists, and arguably the least defensible of all our uses.
In cattle my count of straight growth promotion claims includes
monensin, lasalocid, laidslmycin, bacitracin zinc, bambermycins, with
no defensible relationship to human medicine) and chlortetracycline,
oxytetracycline, neomycin/oxytetracycline,
sulfamethazine/oxytetracycline, and virginiamycin (with arguable
connections to human therapeutics). Many of these also have other
regimens for prevention or treatment of a disease.
The activist-proposed links have moved well beyond direct zoonotic
transfer or even direct selection of a resistant population by use of
an antibiotic in animals. The political surge now is to propose a food
animal contribution to a "resistance reservoir" in the human community
that contributes to human resistance that will then be transferred to
pathogenic bacteria that will be selected for by use in human medicine.
This is the perfect argument to drive the precautionary principle
forward in the U.S. You can't really prove it, but try and disprove
The real issue for us (as an entire food animal industry) is the
ability to prevent or control disease through feed/water applications.
The political push on this front is to blame our need for these uses
on the structure of our industries.
I don't think the growth promotion claims are worth much effort, but
the disease prevention/control claims are definitely worth the fight,
and what about therapeutics? So, why not just cut a deal where PAMTA
just addresses growth promotion claims and not prevention/control
claims and get on with life? Because they will be back for the next
incremental step, and the next. Washington D.C. is run by 20-something
staffers that have grown up on conspiracy theory TV and are very
receptive to arguments that big, evil agriculture is pumping toxins
into their brains. They do the research for their bosses and control
access of who gets to interact with the representatives/senators and
glean the information that is considered. And what better to get your
constituency behind you than to joust the windmill of agriculture?
The PEW foundation has masterfully crafted a report they are using to
drive PAMTA lobbying knowing that 99% of the people will never check
their references for actual support of their assertions, nor take time
to look at what they have omitted. That is why the UCS 70% number
survives in DC; nobody has the expertise or desire to actually
investigate such a wonderful, juicy piece of damning information on an
And PEW has taken their first step, in a letter to the editor in JAVMA,
to undermine credibility of anyone doing research that is industryfunded. Slant the data, claim to be all inclusive, discredit any
people disagreeing with you, divide and conquer ("your industry has the
fewest problems"), and work the staffers and representatives/senators
on the hill. Pretty good strategy actually.
I have struggled with this greatly. Could standing up against PAMTA
and the precautionary principle lead to stalling removal of antibiotics
used in agriculture that are causing treatment failures in human
medicine? I'll tell you my opinion, if this exists, it isn't from lowlevel growth promotion use. And yes, I think there are some things we
are doing that are unwise in the long run.
Let's look at it from another angle, would giving in to activist spin
and giving up uses without sufficient evidence set a precedent that
activist groups can just wear us down in an incremental fashion? How
about 5 years from now when a new antimicrobial that could dramatically
effect disease and suffering in food animals is shown to have no
demonstrable adverse public health effects but the approval is rejected
because "you never know". How willing are we to accept activist
groups and ballot boxes as the determinant of what we have to address
disease in food animals? Are we willing to work under a demand for
zero risk by activists?
In my opinion, the FDA, EPA, and USDA are being empowered as rogue
states by the current administration, seeking to bypass legislative
oversight (let me be clear that I am not implying that all the people
in these agencies are with this plan). To fold up now, in this
environment, would be to set a precedent for the uninformed, sound-bite
dependant media to drive our decision process.
I don't want to spend time defending strict growth promotion uses of
antibiotics, and I don't think it is the best use of compounds used
therapeutically in human or veterinary medicine. However, I will fall
on the sword of demanding sound reasoning for what we do, as well as
demanding that all parties play straight with the data. These issues
are inseparably entwined. I'm in it for the process, because the
process we settle for now will be the process we have when the issue
becomes preventive/control uses (actually already is), therapeutic
uses, and the structure of our industry. I try not to be a conspiracy
theorist or a slippery slope guy either, but we cannot stand for an
erosion of a scientific process in determining our ability to treat
diseases in food animals. And our opponents aren't trying to erode it,
they are trying to remove a large chunk of it.
Mike Apley, DVM, PhD, DACVCP
Professor, Dept. of Veterinary Clinical Sciences Director - PharmCATS
Bioanalytical Laboratory 111B Mosier Hall Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506
Office 785-532-4167
PharmCATS - 785-532-6335
Fax 785-532-3909