Antibiotic Resistance Due to Modern Agricultural Practices: An Ethical Perspective

  • Joan DuckenfieldEmail author
Review Paper


The use of subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics in food-producing animals has been linked to antibiotic resistant infections in humans. Although this practice has been banned in Europe, the U.S. regulatory authorities have been slow to act. This paper discusses the regulatory hurdles and ethical dilemmas of banning this practice within the context of the risk analysis model (risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication). Specific issues include unethical use of scientific uncertainty during the risk assessment phase, the rejection of the precautionary principle leading to ineffective risk management, and the criticality of risk communication to build consensus and force action. The underlying root cause is a conflict of values (Type I ethical problem) among key stakeholders, which is examined in depth along with an ethical analysis using public health ethical values.


Antibiotic resistance Feeding of antibiotics to farm animals Growth promotion agents Risk management Ethical analysis Type I and type II errors 



I would like to acknowledge Freda Patterson, PhD., Assistant Professor of Public Health at Temple University for her guidance in the writing of this manuscript and to thank the anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of this paper for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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