It has a number of different possible affects. Because of the overuse of antibiotics in animals we have allowed many organisms to evolve that are drug resistant. This is a problem for both humans and animals. The fear is that some day soon we may have an organism that is truly resistant to everything we have. We already have examples of super-bugs such as MRSA, and drug resistant e-coli, salmonella and others. This will probably continue to be a problem until farming practices are changed and animals are allowed to live off the land as they were intended to do, and people are not eating meat and dairy all the time.
I would add that, not only are antibiotics a problem, but growth hormones too. In our consumer-centered ignorance, we are altering the genetic make-up of animals with hormones like rBGH, which increases milk production and other growth enhancing artifices which could have long-term impacts on human and environmental health. Some studies have already shown that “‘growth enhanced’ animals and can disrupt human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer”. And, of course, what goes in must come out; excrement from farm animals can mean the contamination of waterways and the ecosystems within them.
Mass producing meat factories are the most guilty of using antibiotics in their animals. However the problem really is a combination of several factors, not only antibiotics but also growth hormones (such as the poster above pointed out) as well as the unatural conditions that these animals are forced to live in which breed harmful bacteria. Such unhealthy farming is the main cause of tainted food today.
To start, the use of antibiotics in farm animals comes under several categories: treating animals that are sick, preventing illness in animals confined in overcrowded facilities, and promoting increased growth rate in animals grown for meat. All of these uses allow farm owners to decrease costs and increase profits. However, the potential for human harm comes mainly in the form of antibiotic resistant bacteria strains that develop from this continual exposure to low-dose antibiotics. These new strains, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), can reach human populations through meat consumption, meat handling, as well as dispersion into the general environment through water runoff from animal farms and processing plants. In response to this risk, the World Health Organization has recommended restricting antibiotic use in farm animals to only animals diagnosed as ill by veterinarians, who would give prescriptions for the particular animal.
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