By Dr. Jim Mercola
American farmers routinely use antibiotics to make their livestock grow bigger and faster (in addition to preventing disease caused by cramped, filthy quarters, and an unnatural diet). As a result of decades of this practice, antibiotic-resistance in humans has dramatically risen.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1 (CDC), two million American adults and children become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result.
A recent report commissioned by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, estimates that by 2050 antibiotic resistance will have killed 300 million people; the annual global death toll reaching 10 million. Experts are now warning that we may soon be at a point where ALL antibiotics fail, and once that happens, it will be the end of modern medicine as we know it.
Common illnesses such as bronchitis or strep throat can then turn deadly, and even routine, low-risk surgeries become risky. More high-stakes surgeries like organ transplants may no longer be survivable.
Flawed Agriculture Model Has Bred Out-of-Control Drug Resistance
The routine use of antibiotics in agriculture is at the very heart of this urgent public health threat. First of all, agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US, so it’s really a primary source of antibiotic exposure.
Second, it is the continuous use of low dose antibiotics that really allows the bacteria to survive and become increasingly hardy and drug resistant. But while confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) tend to get blamed the most, other aspects of agriculture contribute to the scourge of antibiotic resistance as well, and in some surprising ways.
In the first study2,3,4 of its kind, researchers found that commonly used herbicides actually promote antibiotic resistance by priming pathogens to more readily become resistant to antibiotics. This includes Roundup, which was shown to increase the antibiotic-resistance of E. coli and Salmonella.
As reported by Rodale News:5
“The way Roundup causes this effect is likely by causing the bacteria to turn on a set of genes that are normally off, [study author] Heinemann says. ‘These genes are for ‘pumps’ or ‘porins,’ proteins that pump out toxic compounds or reduce the rate at which they get inside of the bacteria…’
Once these genes are turned on by the herbicide, then the bacteria can also resist antibiotics. If bacteria were to encounter only the antibiotic, they would instead have been killed.
In a sense, the herbicide is ‘immunizing’ the bacteria to the antibiotic…This change occurs at levels commonly used on farm field crops, lawns, gardens, and parks.” [Emphasis mine]
Other herbicides scrutinized in the study include dicamba and 2,4-D, which is particularly relevant in light of the recent approval of a new generation of GE crops resistant not only to glyphosate, but also to dicamba and/or 2,4-D.