As of January 2017, a new FDA law requires honeybees to be under the care of veterinarians
In an effort to curb the rising number of food animal diseases that are resistance to antibiotics, the FDA has classified honeybees a ‘food producing animal’ and requires beekeepers, along with all other US food animal growers, to be under the direct supervision of a veterinarian when administering antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is a big deal.
The overuse of antibiotics in food animals (and bees) can create ‘superbugs’, bacteria that become resistant to common antibiotics and consequently threaten our food supply. Additionally, resistant bacteria can spread their genetic resistance to other bacteria in the environment that can directly infect humans.
In an article published by the online blog, ConsumersUnion, entitled The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals Threatens Public Health, the author cites testimony by several federal agencies that supports the dangers of antibiotic resistance.
In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the CDC all testified before Congress that there is a connection between the routine use of antibiotics for meat production and the declining effectiveness of antibiotics for people. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Director of the CDC, noted that “there is strong scientific evidence of a link between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans.”
The article went on to say:
The threat to public health from the overuse of antibiotics in food animals is real and growing. Humans are at risk both due to potential presence of antibiotic-resistant- bacteria in meat and poultry, and to the general migration of antibiotic-resistant-bacteria into the environment. There, these ‘superbugs’ pass their genetic immunity to antibiotics to other bacteria, including bacteria that make people sick.
There is good reason why Brookfield veterinarians insist that your pet fully finish any prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics first kill the weakest bacteria infecting your pet, and then progressively terminate the stronger bacteria all the way through the last dose of antibiotic that ends any remaining infection. Ending treatment, before the full dose has been administered, not only risks a return of the disease, but the propagation of the strongest bacteria that were in the initial infection. These resistant bacteria keep your pet sick, can re-infect other animals, or pass antibiotic resistance onto other bacteria in the environment. As a side note, there’s also good reason to diagnose all diseases before treating with an antibiotic. There are a number of factors that determine which antibiotic will work with which bacteria. Not knowing the rules means that you potentially create a superbug and make the disease your pet is experiencing far worse.
What do Honeybees Have to Do With It? The Dangers of Antibiotic Use In Honeybees
There are 125 thousand beekeepers in America, raising as much as 400 pounds of honey per hive. The honey crop itself is estimated to be worth 327 million dollars in annual sales, but the real money is in pollination. Honeybees are estimated to add 15 billion dollars of value to America’s crops, most notably almonds.
The San Juaquin Valley in California produces 80% of the entire world’s almond crop. Almond growers, in an interest to increase productivity, annually import 1.5 million bee hives into the region to pollinate their trees. The practice of mixing bees from all over the country into one small section of California creates an opportunity for the strongest diseases to rapidly spread, but the sizeable increase in almond production, and the money to be earned from bee keepers (200 dollars per transported hive), makes the practice difficult to shake.
In its effort to push animals and bees to produce more food, American farmers have, for decades, relied on low doses of antibiotics to keep both herds and hives healthy, but the practice has delivered a day of reckoning. Years of misuse have created a serious threat to our food production, to an entire species of bees, and to human health. The FDA has rightly identified the problem and has written a law that puts veterinarians in full charge of antibiotic use in all food animals including bees, but are Brookfield vets ready for the challenge? Do you have a bee hive? If so what do you think of the new law? Get beeezzzzzzy and let us know in the comments section below!