Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance in Food and Agricultural Sectors

By Maria Semedo, FAO

Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance in Food and Agricultural Sectors

With the release in May of the final report and recommendations of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, GBCHealth has convened a group of global leaders to discuss the potential impact of AMR and their priorities for immediate action. The #GBCtalksAMR series, which will be published over the next three weeks is intended to supplement the high-level meeting on AMR that took place at the UN General Assembly meeting on 21 September, 2016.

What do you see as the priorities for addressing the challenge of AMR in the short term?

Awareness raising among the general public, the farmers, and ensuring that our physicians, veterinarians and pharmacists are prescribing the right medicines for the right purpose is needed. Too much self-medication, or over-the-counter access occurs around the world.

We know very little of the amount of antimicrobials that are being produced, who is exporting, who is buying and what is the destined use – public health, livestock, aquaculture, as a feed additive? This baseline information is needed so we can know where the risks are and can identify accountability, as well as improve governance.

Is there something particular about the challenges posed by AMR that make coordinated, multi-sector action even more essential?

Education and improving food and agriculture practices so that antibiotic use (or misuse) is not seen as the common practice it is today. Improved governance – and accountability – across line ministries and across professions (physicians, veterinarians, agronomists or pharmacists) is required too.

How can the private sector be an effective partner in the global AMR effort?

More than an effective partner, the private sector is a necessary player. Innovation in medicines, vaccines, communication, point-of-care diagnostics, to name a few. But these need to be available, accessible and affordable.

How can we overcome barriers that inhibit investment and action to address AMR?

Prevention is more cost effective than the overuse or misuse of life-saving medicines to “treat” an unknown disease. Prevention can incorporate the proper use of vaccines, improved farming practices, hygiene along the production-transport and marketing chain.

How can we ensure that all economic and social segments are included in efforts to address AMR?

Linking with the private sector is fundamental – these can be large multinational conglomerates or local farmers selling their goods at the local market. AMR affects us all. We do need to have innovation – not only in science and technology – but also in communication, in addressing local needs (such as microcredit, or farmer field schools, access to affordable services, etc.).

What is the role of the FAO in combatting AMR through the One Health strategy?

FAO is really a One Health organization – it brings together a multitude of disciplines – nutritionists, veterinarians, food safety specialists, fisheries and aquaculture specialist, lawyers, land and water environmental engineers and communications specialists under one roof. The rural outreach and trust built over decades of working with communities, FAO truly understands that to eradicate poverty, hunger, prevent disease, or mitigate climate change or addressing AMR, the healthy interaction across the spectrum of expertise is needed.

Just last week, FAO launched an Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2016-2020. Our plan highlights four key areas for action in the food and agriculture sphere:

1. Improving awareness of AMR issues among farmers and producers, veterinary professionals and authorities, policymakers, and food consumers;

2. Building national capacities for surveillance and monitoring of AMR and antimicrobial use (AMU) in food and agriculture;

3. Strengthening governance related to AMU and AMR in food and agriculture;

4. Promoting good practices in food and agricultural systems and the prudent use of antimicrobials.

We aim to help governments put in place national strategies for tackling AMR and AMU in their food and agricultural sectors by mid-2017.

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