Antibiotics to grow farm animals raise superbug risk


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Economics of animal-rearing

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Neftin –T, Colistin

Mains level: Hazard of drug-resistant diseases to human due to excessive and unregulated  use of antibiotics in India.



  1. The world’s biggest animal drugs company has been accused of double standards and of exposing consumers in India to “higher levels of risk” by selling globally banned.
  2. Zoetis the largest producer of veterinary medicines is supplying Indian farmers with antibiotics to help their animals grow faster.
  3. The practice increases the prevalence of resistant bacteria that can infect humans and cause deadly and untreatable infections.

Neftin -T

  1. Zoetis is selling Neftin-T in India which contains the antibiotic Tylosin.
  2. Zoetis recommends feeding Neftin-T to chickens to improve weight gain and FCR (feed conversion rate).
  3. Tylosin is not only critically important to animal health but it has been banned for use as a growth promoter in the EU.
  4. It is because of fears of resistance to erythromycin, which is used to treat chest infections and other human diseases.
  5. WHO classes erythromycin as critically important to human health.

Exposed double standard of US

  1. Zoetis publicly supported new laws in the U.S. banning this abuse of antibiotics.
  2. However it continues to sell antibiotics directly to Indian farmers with claims on the company’s Indian website that they will make animals grow bigger and faster.
  3. It is blatantly clear that Zoetis is using a double standard in the way it is willing to expose consumers in India to higher levels of risk than in the US.
  4. This is not currently against Indian law although the government has called ban as regulation and enforcement are more lax.

Banned Worldwide

  1. The practice of using antibiotics to make animals grow faster was banned completely in the EU in 2006.
  2. Zoetis products faced the ban last year for its products in US.

Health hazards of antibiotics

  1. The unnecessary use of antibiotics in human medicine and agriculture, such as their use to make animals grow faster rather than treat disease, are major contributors to growing levels of resistant bacteria.
  2. It is estimated 1,00,000 babies a year in the country die from infections from resistant bugs.
  3. Worldwide they’re believed to kill 7,00,000 people, according to a British government-commissioned review in 2016.
  4. WHO has called antibiotic resistance one of the greatest threats to public health.

Limitations of other allowed antibiotics

  1. Colistin is often used to treat seriously ill people with infections that have become resistant to almost all other drugs.
  2. It is deemed one of the highest priority, critically important antibiotics by WHO.
  3. But the recent discovery of a colistin-resistant gene that can pass between bacteria is conferring resistance to bugs.
  4. Hence it is more likely to accelerate the spread of resistance through colistin which is further boosted by the rampant use by livestock farmers.

Need for urgent regulation

  1. Maharashtra has ruled all animal drug stores should stop selling antibiotics to farmers without a prescription, after a court order.
  2. But in other states, no such regulations are in place.
  3. Animals reared for meat in the major emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is expected to consume double the amount of antibiotics in 2030 than they did in 2010.
  4. This needs urgent attention of policy makers as a simple ban will not suffice.
Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc
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