Worldwide, more people die each year from the consequences of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) than from HIV/AIDS or malaria. If nothing happens, more people will die from AMR in 2050 than from cancer. The feed sector may play an important role in preventing this scenario.
Roland van der Post
Managing Director, GMP+ International
Antibiotics are sometimes used in feed to enhance growth and production performance of the animals. The disadvantage is that bacteria that are not resistant to antibiotics will die, while the resistant ones survive. These may also be transmitted to humans, thus preventing drug treatment against diseases, or making it much more difficult.
Annually, more than 1.2 million deaths worldwide are directly attributable to antimicrobial resistance. Prof. Dr. At the Global Feed Safety Summit in Berlin, Leo den Hartog of Wageningen University & Research pointed out that, in the absence of a new strategy, this number could rise to 10 million cases by 2050. Infections that used to be cured by antibiotics treatment for a few days might ultimately become incurable.
This is why more and more governments are taking action. In 2020, China prohibited the use of antibiotics in the animal production sector. Earlier this year, a regulation came into effect within the European Union to ensure tighter control of the production, the import, export, distribution, trade and use of veterinary medicines.
It would be a fallacy, however, to conclude that government action is the only driving force to induce changes in the feed sector. As early as 2011, GMP+ International - at the request of the Dutch feed sector - introduced a Country Note (TS2.2) for antibiotics-free feed. In many countries, the sector is already assuming responsibility. In the Netherlands, for instance, the use of antibiotics in the livestock industry dropped by about 70 percent between 2009 and 2020.
Despite growing awareness, however, antibiotics in animal feed, all in all, are not on the decrease. Science is quite clear on this count: AMR is a worldwide problem requiring a global approach. Therefore, as a global scheme, we want to play a facilitating role in reducing AMR. We are going to try and promote our antibiotic-free module, which was initially intended only for the Dutch sector, in other countries as well.
Above all, safe feed should not have any adverse effects on the health of humans and animals. Thus, let us commit to prudent use of antimicrobials throughout the sector. This will not be enough to eliminate AMR altogether in the near future. By cooperating and taking responsibility as a sector, however, we will no longer be part of the problem, but part of the solution. This approach fits an innovative sector like ours like no other.