Seattle Solidarity Against Superbugs

microbe skull and crossbones

By Jim Fromm

SEATTLE, OCCUPIED DUWAMISH TERRITORY – May 3, 2014

In the week prior and on May Day, activists passed out hundreds of fliers on antibiotics resistance at Seattle McDonald’s restaurants, calling on McDonald’s workers and customers to strike and boycott. Shortly after the Seattle immigrants’ rights march, half a dozen people were kicked out of the McDonald’s on Third and Pine for leafleting. The flier’s text is below.

On April 30th, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a comprehensive report on antibiotics resistance worldwide, provoking headlines such as “Get ready for a world where antibiotics no longer work.”

ABinfo“Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” stated Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security. “Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating.”

The WHO report emphasizes the need to prevent infections in the first place, “through better hygiene, access to clean water, infection control in health-care facilities, and vaccination.” Many of these basic preventive health services have been dismantled worldwide by neoliberal structural adjustment and austerity programs.

In the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that produce most of the meat consumed in the United States, it is cheaper to feed animals daily doses of antibiotics than to improve conditions enough to prevent infections. This is a major cause of antibiotic resistance. However, two powerful corporate lobbies – Big Pharma and Big Agra – protect the practice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced voluntary guidelines this year, which have been slammed by activists as toothless (see sidebar). While some activists are pushing for a federal government ban on antibiotics feeding to farm animals, others are pressuring corporations and anchor institutions (hospitals, schools, and so on) to drop antibiotic-raised meat.

Meanwhile, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) is drafting a corporate definition for “sustainable meat,” which as of now excludes language on antibiotics. GRSB is an initiative of Big Pharma and Big Agra corporations including McDonald’s, WalMart, Merck, and some token NGO participation. Activists are currently petitioning GRSB to address antibiotics in their definition.

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