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Governments must address antibiotic use in farming: Ontario Medical Association

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TORONTO - The Ontario Medical Association wants the federal and provincial governments to crack down on antibiotic use in farming.

The organization is issuing a call to arms on the problem of antibiotic resistance, warning the world is in danger of losing these drugs because of misuse.

A policy paper drafted by the OMA says Ontario should ban the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in food animal production.

Farmers currently feed antibiotics to healthy animals both to prevent them from becoming ill and to accelerate growth.

Many more tonnes of the drugs are used in agricultural operations than in human medicine and experts say the practice is fuelling development of resistance.

OMA President Dr. Doug Weir says Canada has been slower off the mark to act to protect antibiotics than countries in Europe and the United States.

For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has barred the disease prevention use of a class of antibiotics called cephalosporins in animal production, but the practice is not banned in Canada.

Weir says Canadians do not appear to understand that if antibiotic use isn't curbed, the world faces a future in which some infections will be incurable.

"This is a serious problem. We have to take serious action," Weir says.

The position paper suggests access to antibiotics for agricultural operations should be limited to cases where veterinarians write prescriptions for the drugs.

And both Ontario and the federal government should close legal loopholes that allow farmers to import large quantities of the drugs for use in their operations without surveillance or regulation.

On the human health side, the OMA suggests Ontario should establish an independent institution that would use the latest scientific evidence to advise doctors on when and how to best prescribe antibiotics for their patients.

The organization is also calling on the federal government to fund research and educational campaigns on the issue of antibiotic awareness.

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