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Debates
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Public health threat of antimicrobial resistance (debate)
MPphoto
 

  Esther de Lange (PPE). - (NL) Mr President, it is the second time in the last six months that we have discussed antibiotic resistance here: once at the initiative of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and once at the initiative of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. Now, you might conclude from that that we all consider this a very urgent issue, and that would be a fine conclusion. However, what you might also read into that is that we are, perhaps, far too split on this issue. That is precisely where, in my opinion, we could put a finger on the sore spot. Our approach to this problem has been far too fragmented. This has become a livestock farming-versus-public health kind of debate, but both are inextricably linked and only an integral approach will provide us with a solution.

That said, let us give credit where credit is due. This resolution does look at all the aspects but, in my view, it could have been more robust on certain points. I will first discuss livestock farming. It has rightly been pointed out that, despite some small steps forward, the use of antibiotics in livestock farming is still too high. In my native country, in the Netherlands, we have got all the stakeholders together round the table, from farmers to supermarkets, and together agreed to reduce the amount of antibiotics by 20% this year and by 50% in 2013. That is an ambitious target, Commissioner, and perhaps also an inspiration for the plans you are going to propose.

Moving next to antibiotic use in humans. In my opinion, the text is still far too soft on that issue. We have to monitor, we have to provide information, yes, that is all well and good, but it is a simple fact that selling antibiotics without a prescription is prohibited, pure and simple. Research has shown that, in some Member States, that prohibition is still being massively circumvented by pharmacies which are offering these products directly to consumers, including in cases where they do not have a prescription. We are rightly demanding considerable efforts from livestock farmers, but we are not going to resolve the problem of antibiotic resistance as long as people in Europe, in some Member States, continue to run to the pharmacy at the very first sign of a cold – and that is where I actually agree with the speaker from the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left – straight to the pharmacy for our next dose.

I am therefore pleased, Commissioner. We have often been at loggerheads in this Chamber, but on this occasion I am pleased with your proposal and, indeed, we could work to give it even more bite.

 
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