Attending the UN High-level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance in New York and the ONE Health Antibiotic Stewardship Summit hosted by Elanco in Washington D.C., Nutreco CEO Knut Nesse made a case for substantially reducing the use of antibiotics in food production. “With a holistically integrated approach based on farm, feed and health management, antibiotic use can be reduced significantly on a global scale – with equal or even improved productivity.”
The UN Declaration as adopted at the UN General Assembly last week refers to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as the biggest challenge to public health of modern times. UK Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davis – addressing one of the UN side meetings – clarified what this means, stating that if we continue business as usual we go back to a pre-antibiotics era. That may take the lives of 40% of humanity.
WHO Director General Dr Margareth Chan pleaded for a multidimensional multi-stakeholder approach. Dr David Nabarro, Special Envoy Representative of the UN Secretary General for AMR, announced the establishment of a new mechanism for the strategised and integrated management and funding of the battle against AMR. The FAO launched an Action Plan on AMR, with promoting good practices in food and agricultural systems and the prudent use of antimicrobials as one of the key actions. It also states that more research and development into alternatives to antibiotics is needed.
At the One Health Summit in Washington D.C., Knut Nesse stressed the need to develop alternatives to antibiotics. As a result of a growing world population and the increased demand for animal protein, recent studies indicate that antibiotic use in farming is expected to rise drastically if we continue business as usual.
“We face an immense challenge to feed a growing world population, while at the same time the environmental pressure on the planet must be halved. So more food needs to be produced with less resources. The urgency of antibiotic resistance now adds another challenge to it,” he emphasized. “It is inevitable that we reduce the amount of antibiotics used in food production significantly. We can only achieve this if we redirect our focus to alternative strategies.”
Nutreco’s is committed to conducting anticipatory research and is currently validating new, non-antibiotic feed additives and functional diets that are one of the key factors in reducing antibiotic use.
Experiences in Norway and the Netherlands demonstrate that cross-sectoral collaboration involving farmers, veterinarians, government, science and industry can reduce the use of antibiotics in food production significantly. Antibiotic use in Norwegian salmon farming has come down with 99% since 1990. In livestock farming in the Netherlands, today 58% less antibiotics are used compared to 2009. In both examples productivity remained equal or even improved.
“A very substantial part of antibiotics is used on farms routinely or to overcome suboptimal conditions. With a holistically integrated approach based on farm, feed and health management, antibiotic use can be reduced significantly – with equal or even better productivity,” said Nesse.
“First and foremost this requires a change in mindset. By learning from best practices and focusing on alternative strategies, we can help farmers in feeding a growing world population using less resources as well as less antibiotics.”
Translating the Nutreco vision into priorities, Knut Nesse outlined four areas in which regulatory action needs to be undertaken:
1. Setting antibiotic reduction targets in food production without back doors.
2. Creating transparency by improving the monitoring of antibiotic use in food production and the surveillance of antibiotic resistance.
3. Redirecting part of the innovation focus and funding to alternatives including nutritional solutions, robust animals, precision livestock farming and farmers advice.
4. Adapting the regulatory framework so that health and performance attributes of nutritional solutions are acknowledged for and recognised.