Since Charles, Janeen, and I last wrote about the links between drug-resistant superbugs and antibiotic use in livestock, there has been a slew of new interesting, terrifying, and informative things to read on the topic. And they all underscore the need for a global approach to reduce agricultural use of antibiotics to promote animal growth and prevent disease in large, concentrated feeding operations. We offered initial ideas on the essential elements of a global treaty here. You can also read more about the problem, and the steps taken thus far to address it, in my new CGD book, Global Agriculture and the American Farmer: Opportunities for US Leadership.
CGD Policy Blogs
Progress on Global Development Commitments, or More of the Same? CGD Experts Share Hopes and Predictions for 2017 G20 Summit
Each of the G20 summits of the past seven years has suffered in comparison with the London and Pittsburgh Summits of 2009, when the imperative of crisis response motivated leaders, finance ministers, and central bankers to coordinate effectively with each other. Subsequent summits have lacked the same sense of urgency and have failed to deliver any kind of agenda that can be pinpointed as clearly as “saving the global economy.” This week’s summit in Hamburg, Germany promises more of the same, with the real possibility that the G20’s stock could fall even further at the hands of a non-cooperative US delegation.
The US agricultural sector is critical to global food security, but many of the policies that currently govern it negatively impact people around the world. In a new book, CGD visiting fellow Kim Elliott argues for practical policy reforms in three areas that are particularly damaging to developing countries: food aid, biofuel subsidies, and antibiotic resistance in livestock. As the US Congress works through a major new farm bill, Elliott joins the CGD Podcast to discuss how the US can reform agricultural policy to achieve better outcomes.
Without global action, by 2050 there could be as many as 10 million antimicrobial resistance-related deaths each year. An important—and often overlooked—part of the problem is the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals. CGD recently convened a roundtable discussion with technical experts to discuss possible ways to strengthen global cooperation to address livestock’s contribution to AMR. Drawing on that productive discussion, we outline steps that could help make inroads into the problem.
The United States is a major player in global agricultural markets. American farmers account for around 25 percent of world exports of wheat and corn, and are also among the largest producers and exporters of beef, pork, and poultry. This success is partly the result of those farmers having access to abundant land, deep financial markets, and modern technologies. But as I explore in my new book, Global Agriculture and the American Farmer: Opportunities for U.S. Leadership, it is also the result of government policies that distort markets and undermine the provision of global public goods. The poor in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the negative spillovers of these policies.
An Ambitious Goal for International Cooperation in 2017: A Global Treaty to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance
Earlier this month, evidence emerged that a Nevada woman who died last September had contracted a superbug resistant to all 26 available antibiotics, including colistin, the drug of last resort. If left unchecked, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could cause up to 10 million deaths a year by 2050 with a cumulative loss of $100 trillion to the global economy. The misuse of antibiotics in human medicine allows bacteria to evolve resistance to many life-saving drugs. But their excessive and inappropriate use in farm animals—which consume 70-80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States—is another key factor accelerating drug resistance globally.
This past week, the UN General Assembly featured a high-level meeting on the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)—by far the most high-profile gathering ever on this topic, and just the fourth ever such meeting on a health-related issue following HIV (2001), non-communicable diseases (2011), and Ebola (2014).
From the superbug scare in Pennsylvania last month to the UK’s recently released Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, slowing the rate at which infections become resistant to antibiotics is rising up the list of global health priorities—and rightfully so. The Review estimates that deaths from antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could reach 10 million people a year by 2050 if we don’t reduce the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials, including antibiotics, and that the economic damage could add up to a staggering $100 trillion by 2050.
“Google for Doctors”: How the G20 and World Bank Can Help Tackle Antibiotic Resistance – Podcast with Lord Jim O’Neill
The economist who coined the term "BRICS" thinks he has a hot investing tip. In this edition of the CGD podcast, Lord Jim O’Neill of Gatley, a minister in the UK Treasury, tells me that if it costs the world $40 billion over ten years to stop 10 million deaths and “stop the loss of $100 trillion of global GDP, that’s something like a two-and-a-half-thousand percent return.... That seems to me like a pretty good investment.”
Most antibiotics around the world today are fed to farm animals to promote growth and prevent diseases fostered by crowded conditions on factory farms. There is an urgent need to find alternatives to keep animals healthy, and preserve crucial antibiotics for human health. One way to do that would be to create an international treaty not to use antibiotics in livestock feed — and probiotics, like those found in yogurt, may be a stepping stone toward that goal.