AUSTRALIAN producers who treat their livestock with veterinary medicines could jeopardise export opportunities to the European Union (EU) if new antimicrobial resistance legislation is passed on Thursday.
In a move that has Australian vets and animal health professionals on edge, the EU looks set to vote in favour of new veterinary medicinal product regulations, which would force animals bound for the overseas market to comply with treatment restrictions of cattle raised in European countries.
It would overrule any native regulations even if a product was legally compliant in Australia.
While the list of the impacted treatments hasn’t been released, a number of commonly used antibiotics including penicillin could be impacted, according to Australian Veterinary Association president Dr Paula Parker.
“Decisions about the health and welfare of Australian animals should not be dictated by Brussels, and farmers and veterinarians should not be put in the position of potentially having to select an inferior therapy to maintain market access,” she said.
“As part of this rigorous process, the APVMA sets limits for the maximum acceptable levels of medicine residues as well as export slaughter intervals and withholding periods on the label of registered veterinary medicines.
“These safeguards are in place to ensure the safety of animal products for human consumption and to help reduce the risk of drug resistance.”
The bill is a result of the growing focus on reducing antimicrobial resistance but Animal Medicine Australia Executive Director Ben Stapley said it had the potential to do the opposite.
“We use different antimicrobials because we have different pathogens which are sensitive to different antimicrobials, but this legislation ignore all that,” he said.
“Our industries in Australia are different but we are still incredibly well regulated and any consumer can be assured that the animal health and welfare limitations and issues that our farmers face are well managed by all the products farmers’ use.
“We always advocate for the widest variety of tools to be available to veterinarians and farmers to address as many animal health issues as possible because variety in treatment options and new options and innovation is really critical.”
Livestock industry groups and Australian Government agencies are monitoring the situation closely given the number of exports products which could be impacted by any changes to EU veterinary medicine regulations.
“Producers rightly believe Australia’s best-practice animal health standards should be a selling point for our products in overseas supply chains, not something which compromises our market access,” a producer representative, who did not wish to be named, told The Land.
National Farmers Federation General Manager of Trade and Economics Prudence Gordon said the regulations failed to account for difference in farming conditions in other countries.
“Australian livestock farming conditions, for example, differ from European farming conditions in terms of animal populations, disease levels, and antimicrobial effectiveness,” she said.
“Use of animal medicines in Australia is tailored to local conditions.
“Rules that force Australian farmers, wanting to export to European countries, to meet EU vet medicine regulations ignores these differences and restricts the treatment options vets have for managing circumstances specific to Australia.”