The United Nations is the place for geopolitics and often discussions are about conflict. As this past week has shown us, most of the discussions are about political power on the global stage. Often they are about armed conflict and the situation of refugees.
But at the United Nations there is also room for talks about issues facing humanity on a global level. Issues such as environmental protection and climate change. Or issues regarding the health of the world’s population that are so large they require a coordinated effort.
Reason for Alarm
For the fourth time since it has started the annual event, the United Nations warned of a health crisis. The other three times the UN alerted of a health crisis, the issues were HIV, heart disease and Ebola. Now, it has raised the status of a concern regarding health to the level of a crisis that could affect the entire world. The effects would be devastating and at the same time, difficult to manage.
The UN held a meeting with high-level participants to address the issue of antibiotics in our food. The meeting came to the point of antibiotics in food in a roundabout way. Officially, the topic of the meeting was how antibiotics have become less efficient. Studies have shown that it is in fact like that. Antibiotics have been registering a lower efficiency when treating illnesses related to bacteria.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given an estimate of 23,000 people that die in the United States every year due to antibiotic resistance. Some of the deaths occurred with illnesses that could previously be successfully treated with antibiotics. We’re talking about E. coli infections or other such bacteria related illnesses.
Antibiotic resistance is set to become a medical problem in the future. Advances in modern medicine that have saved countless lives so far, like penicillin, run the risk of becoming ineffective.
Causes of Antibiotic Resistance
The way us humans have built up a resistance to antibiotics is linked to the food we eat. Animal agriculture means 9 billion animals slaughtered in the United States every year. For a long time now, food companies as well as independent farmers have used antibiotics on their animals. They use it not just to treat sick animals. Healthy animals also receive antibiotics to prevent any illnesses.
Advocacy groups that work in the area of public health have tried to raise awareness of the issue. They have also asked for government to put in place regulations for the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Government has been slow in taking any effective measures with the situation.
Food companies are not always transparent about their practices. It’s difficult to know exactly what antibiotics the animal has been exposed to. Sometimes there is the possibility for the use of a combination of antibiotics, leading to even more exposure than necessary. There is no mandate to make food companies clearly state what drugs they are using on which animals and in what amounts.
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