Any new trade deal negotiations must not undermine the industry’s progress on the use of antibiotics as the US admits it will push back against rules on a ban of preventative antibiotic treatments.
The warning came following a 97 per cent vote in European Parliament for new legislation which would implement the ban in three years’ time but, given the Government’s intention to keep EU regulatory burdens in the sector to a minimum, a post-Brexit scenario could see the UK adopting ’light-touch regulation’ on farm antibiotics.
This was according to Coilin Nunan of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, who warned the UK could end up with some of the weakest regulatory standards in Europe, ’which raises questions about the kinds of trade deals we will be seeking with non-EU countries like the US, China and Australia, which have much higher levels of antibiotics’.
“It may in the end reverse the progress that has been made by British farmers in cutting their own antibiotic use,” he said.
The UK Government said it supported the legislation, but has repeatedly refused to endorse any ban on group prevention in the UK, instead suggesting it would work with stakeholders to agree how to implement the regulation in practice.
It would therefore be aligning itself with the US administration’s position to strongly oppose the European ban, Mr Nunan said.
According to new Alliance calculations, the use of antibiotics in US farming is six times higher per livestock unit than in the UK, with antibiotic use in US cattle 13 times higher, six times higher for chickens and 2.5 times higher for pigs.
It came as the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture’s (RUMA) Target Task Force 12-month report revealed progress was at differing levels among different sectors, with some having met their targets and working on new goals, others focusing on animal health and continual refinements to overcome new disease threats as they emerge.
Overall, the industry has dropped antibiotic usage by 40 per cent over the last five years.