Organic Food and Farming as a Tool to Combat Antibiotic Resistance and Protect Public Health

Antibiotics are widely administered to conventional livestock raised for food consumption. Of particular concern is the use of antibiotics not to treat infections or prevent diseases, but to simply to increase the growth and feed efficiency of the animals being raised. This practice has been implicated as a direct contributor to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that resistant bacteria originating in livestock can be transmitted to humans. Transmission has been documented via direct contact with animals and feces, environmental contamination, and through the food supply chain resulting in serious public health concerns.

Organic livestock production, which prohibits the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or prophylactic purposes, provides a compelling example of successful, profitable operations, demonstrating the ability of livestock farms to operate without substantial antibiotic use providing a model for how agriculture can contribute to a solution.

The Organic Center reviewed almost 100 studies and developed a report reviewing how organic can be used as a model for reducing the use of antibiotics in agriculture, thus combating antibiotic resistance and protecting public health.


Download the full report

This project looks at how organic can serve as a framework for successfully reducing the use of antibiotics in agriculture. The report details:

  • Mechanisms by which resistance develops in bacteria
  • The role that modern day agricultural practices play in exacerbating antibiotic resistance
  • How organic agriculture, which prohibits antibiotic use, combats the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • How organic protects the health of consumers

As science demonstrating the effects of imprudent antibiotic use in conventional agriculture continues to accumulate, policy makers are beginning to implement regulations designed to curb irresponsible practices. Unfortunately, change takes time and current regulations are easily skirted. While best practices utilized by organic farmers are available to everyone currently they are not widely utilized within the U.S. agricultural system. Until our agricultural system undergoes a major paradigm shift organic offers a simple and effective means to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and to protect the health of consumers.

Dr. Tracy Misiewicz, The Organic Center
Dr. Jessica Shade, The Organic Center

The Organic Center