Intensive food animal farming provides fertile ground for pandemics: CSE

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has strong linkages to food and environment. Intensive settings of food animal production give rise to AMR – and can trigger a crisis like the current COVID-19 episode 

New Delhi, June 10, 2020: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) accounts for 700,000 deaths every year the world over. By 2050, if the world does not take any action, 10 million lives will be at risk every year from this phenomenon, and 90 per cent of them in Asia and Africa. In a year where a pandemic is ruling the roost, it is important to realise that AMR – the phenomenon which makes disease-causing germs resistant to the drugs designed to kill them – is also a pandemic of epic proportions, and needs immediate intervention. 

This emerged out of a webinar – ‘Pandemics and industrial food animal farming’ – organised here today by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Attended by over 350 interested listeners, the webinar was addressed by Haileysus Getahun, Director, Global Coordination and Partnership on AMR, Tripartite Joint Secretariat on AMR, World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva; Anuj Sharma, Technical Officer-AMR, Labs and IPC, WHO Country Office for India; Cóilín Nunan, Scientific Adviser,

Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, UK; Sudhi Rangorath, Veterinary Surgeon, Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of Kerala; Sunita Narain, Director General, CSE, New Delhi; Amit Khurana, Programme Director, Food Safety and Toxins, CSE; and Vibha Varshney, Associate Editor, Down To Earth, New Delhi. 

CSE officially released its publication Body Burden: Antibiotic Resistance – A State of India’s Health report on this occasion ( 

According to Amit Khurana, “The food that we eat is increasingly being produced in intensive industrial settings. This is the norm in high income countries of the world, while in low and middle income countries, intensification is happening due to growing animal protein demand.” 

CSE researchers believe the linkages between pandemics and intensive food animal farming works in two ways. One is the misuse of antibiotics in food animals not for therapeutic purposes, but to promote faster growth and prevent diseases. The gut bacteria in the animal or bird becomes resistant and spreads through food, contact and waste. Says Khurana: “Unmetabolised antibiotics in faeces, and antibiotic residues in food add to the problem.” 

The second process is about the spread of zoonotic diseases. Says Khurana: “About 60 per cent of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic diseases; many originate in wildlife, and livestock often serve as an epidemiological bridge. Intensive conditions reflect a ‘monoculture effect’, a vulnerability due to more contact opportunities among those who lack genetic diversity. This can help viruses amplify and attain higher virulence.” 

So what does CSE recommend?

  • Ban antibiotic use for growth promotion; regulate feed well – antibiotics should not be allowed.
  • Restrict mass disease prevention (i.e. group preventative use); regulate over-the-counter antibiotics sold without prescription
  • Limit the use of critically important antibiotics; preserve those with highest priority for human use
  • Reduce the need for chemicals by focusing on animal husbandry, bio-security, alternatives, diagnostics, and veterinary extension systems
  • Limit the environmental spread of AMR determinants: adopt AMR-centric approach to manage waste from farms; make standards, monitor and manage waste/effluents, litter, and manure
  • Reduce dependence on intensive systems; grow more food in other settings


For more on this, contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre, / 88168 18864.




Webinar Recording
Global pandemic
By: V Varshney, CSE
Antimicrobial Resistance and Intensive Food Production
By: Amit Khurana, CSE
Tripartite (FAO/OIE/WHO) Response to Antimicrobial Resistance
By: Haileyesus Getahun
COVID management – antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance
By: Dr Anuj Sharma
Intensive Farming, Antibiotic Resistance and Pandemics
By: Cóilín Nunan,
Safer options to antibiotics in food animal farming
By: Dr sudhi R,
Body Burden: Antibiotic Resistance - State of India’s Health
Director General, CSE,
New Delhi
Associate Editor,
Down To Earth and lead writer of Body Burden: Antimicrobial Resistance, New Delhi, India
Programme Director,
Food Safety and Toxins, CSE, New Delhi, India
Global Coordination and Partnership on AMR, Tripartite Joint Secretariat on AMR, World Health Organization, Geneva
Technical Officer
AMR, Labs and IPC, WHO Country Office for India
Cóilín Nunan
Scientific Adviser,
Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, UK
Veterinary Surgeon,
Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of Kerala, India
BIO | Presentation