Why are antimicrobials used in crop production? Is this a risk to human health?

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Why are antimicrobials used in crop production? Is this a risk to human health?

Antimicrobials are sometimes used as pesticides and to treat plant diseases. Recently questions have been asked about the risk of resistance developing in bacteria as a result of antimicrobial use against plant disease and whether this resistance has any impact on human infections. The Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics outlines the possible risk to human health and provides links to further sources of information. In addition the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal published a supplement in June 2002 about antibiotics in agriculture and the possible risk to human health. The review concluded that all antimicrobial use (in animals, agriculture and humans) contributes to the problem of antimicrobial resistance in microbes.

There has also been some concern about the use of antibiotic resistance markers in developing Genetically Modified (GM) foods and whether the antibiotic resistance can transfer to bacteria. The Food Standards Agency discusses this in their GM Factsheet. They conclude that there is an extremely low risk of transfer of the antibiotic resistance gene to bacteria from GM foods.

Related Resources
Facts About Antibiotic Use In Animals and the Impact on Resistance
Making sure GM food is safe to eat
The Need to Improve Antimicrobial Use in Agriculture: Ecological and Human Effects
Uses of Antimicrobials in Food Animals in Canada: Impact on Resistance and Human Health
Animal Health Institute Website
Use of antimicrobials outside human medicine and resultant antimicrobial resistance in humans

Date of Posting: 23/01/2003
Date of next Review: 15/01/2005

Related Questions:
Why are antimicrobials used in farm animals?

MeSH keywords:
Crops Agricultural; Antibiotics; Drug Resistance, Microbial; Drug Resistance, Bacterial; Food, Genetically Modified

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