HOD revises antimicrobials in livestock feeds policy

Resolutions on veal calf management, veterinary student debt relief passed
Published on February 15, 2009
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Several AVMA Bylaws amendments and policy proposals were on the agenda for the second regular winter session of the House of Delegates, which convened Jan. 10 in Chicago as part of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference.

AVMA President-elect Larry M. Corry presided over the session, where delegates considered five proposed Bylaws amendments and nine resolutions.

Cattle feeding

In the past, the HOD considered policy proposals only at its regular annual session that ran in conjunction with the Annual Convention. Recent revisions to the AVMA Bylaws now allow delegates to conduct business at the winter session as well.

Delegates approved only one of five proposed bylaws amendments. The revision they accepted allows the AVMA vice president to serve a single, two-year term. Previously, the vice president could serve two consecutive one-year terms but had to run for re-election after the first term. The bylaws change will affect the 2010-2011 vice presidential election.

Also of note, the HOD disapproved a Bylaws amendment that would have sunset the AVMA Council on Communications. The drive to end the council started with a recommendation from the AVMA Governance Performance Review Committee. This past November the Executive Board agreed that the communications council had lost its direction and approved the proposal to sunset the entity.

The HOD disagreed with the board's recommendation, however, and voted down the Bylaws change needed to end the council. Delegates who spoke against the proposal commended the AVMA Communications Division for its work but said they consider the council a vital vehicle for member input on the Association's message topics.

The nine resolutions submitted to the HOD dealt with a number of issues, such as guidelines for veal calf management and veterinary student debt relief. Two differing proposals to amend the AVMA policy on Antimicrobials in Livestock Feeds received the most attention from delegates, however. Though similar in many ways, resolutions 6 and 9 were different enough to provoke lengthy discussion among delegates.

Ultimately, the HOD approved Resolution 6, submitted by the American Association of Avian Pathologists, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, and the Alabama VMA.

Proponents of Resolution 6 explained that it amends the AVMA policy to stress the need to proactively address antimicrobial resistance through science-based risk analysis. The revised policy reads as follows:

Antimicrobials in Livestock Feeds

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves antimicrobials used in livestock feeds to prevent, control, or treat certain diseases (therapeutic uses); or to promote growth or increase feed efficiency. The availability and effectiveness of antimicrobials are important for maintaining the health and welfare of food producing animals and ensuring human food safety.

The AVMA supports a transparent FDA drug approval process that is rigorous and based on substantial scientific evidence supported by data and that includes an assessment of food safety. The AVMA believes FDA must continue to rely on robust antimicrobial resistance surveillance (e.g., National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System) and on science to evaluate possible public health impacts. Because of the national interest in ensuring food safety and public health and because of the interstate movement of animals and products in modern food production, the AVMA believes that a nationally coordinated effort is the only way to effectively address the issue of antimicrobial resistance.

All regulatory or legislative actions should be transparent and based on scientific risk analysis. Risk analysis should continue to evaluate the risks and benefits to animal health and welfare in addition to the risks and benefits to human health attributed to uses in animals. Risk analysis includes risk assessment, risk communication, and risk management actions that are commensurate with the level of actual risk. Risk management options are not limited to withdrawal of approval of use; review by the Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee; and limitations of use such as use in only certain species or changing to a Veterinary Feed Directive drug.

The AVMA recognizes that more data are needed to complete a risk analysis on the public health significance of many antimicrobial uses in livestock feeds. The AVMA supports access to the data and actions necessary to conduct an accurate scientific risk assessment to facilitate risk-based decisions concerning the appropriate and judicious use of antimicrobials. We urge the FDA and other public health agencies, as well as veterinarians, livestock producers, and pharmaceutical companies to cooperatively support scientific studies needed to close the data gaps. The AVMA seeks input and support for a concerted and coordinated effort to obtain the data necessary to conduct assessments to enable risk-based decisions concerning use.

The AVMA recognizes the importance of antimicrobials that are also used in human medicine. To further safeguard public health and to maintain the long-term effectiveness of antimicrobials, the AVMA supports a science based medical evaluation to determine the appropriate use of such antimicrobials in animals. If determined through a risk analysis, the use of such antimicrobials by and under the control and direction of a veterinarian. Veternarians are professionally educated, trained, and licensed, and should retain primary responsibility for the use of important antimicrobials. The AVMA emphasizes the importance of the role of the veterinarian, the existence of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship, and the appropriate and judicious use of antimicrobials in animals.

The AVMA urges veterinarians to continually assess and critically review the uses of antimicrobials in livestock feed. Veterinarians should also recommend preventive practices to minimize the need for antimicrobials.

The AVMA welcomes stakeholder input and cooperation.

The New Jersey and Maine VMAs submitted Resolution 9, which they said would revise the policy to emphasize the role of the veterinarian as the only individual with the authority to allow use of antimicrobials in livestock feeds.

There were, however, concerns that if Resolution 9 were approved, the AVMA would be committed to supporting broad legislative and regulatory initiatives to limit or restrict the availability of over-the-counter antimicrobials in livestock feeds in circumstances when no scientific basis for doing so exists and when the infrastructure is not in place to ethically manage the increased workload.

Despite the HOD's approval of an amendment to the resolution—offered by the New Jersey VMA to allay concerns of its critics—delegates still disapproved the proposal.

Additionally, the HOD approved the following proposals:

  • Resolution 1, submitted by the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians and American Association of Food Hygiene Veterinarians, directs the AVMA to urge the Department of Agriculture to make student loan debt relief available for veterinary diagnosticians and veterinarians pursuing residencies and advanced degrees who work in food animal veterinary diagnostic laboratories.
  • Resolution 3, submitted by the House Advisory Committee, revises the Manual of the House of Delegates to allow reference committees to submit resolutions that pertain to the business of the committee, for consideration by the HOD.
  • Resolution 4, submitted by the HAC, American Association of Food Hygiene Veterinarians, and National Association of Federal Veterinarians, calls on the AVMA to urge the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service to re-establish and fill the position of chief veterinary public health officer. Dr. William James, an FSIS representative who attended the VLC, said the agency believes the chief veterinary public health officer is, indeed, an important position. He noted that he has assumed the responsibilities of that position in addition to his regular duties at FSIS.
  • Resolution 5, submitted by the HAC, revises the HOD Manual so that council positions that remain open for too long can be temporarily reclassified to at-large positions.
  • Resolution 7, submitted by the Missouri, Rhode Island, and Florida VMAs, directs the AVMA to continue its support of the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Experience for an additional four years after the current support ends with the conclusion of the 2009 AVMA VLE.
  • Resolution 10, submitted by the AVMA Executive Board, is the new AVMA policy on Veal Calf Management, which supersedes the policies Veal Calf Welfare and Veal Calf Housing.

The HOD disapproved Resolution 2, which would have changed the service of council members from a six-year to a three-year term. The Alabama VMA withdrew Resolution 8. It would have allowed nonweighted voting for informational purposes only in the HOD following official weighted voting on animal welfare resolutions.