The world body in charge of fighting animal diseases called for action against widespread abuse of antibiotics in livestock farming, which leads to drug-resistant bacteria, but warned that a ban would leave the world short of protein, Reuters reports.
"The use of antibiotics is today essential to ensure sufficient animal production to feed the planet. Without antibiotics there would be supply problems of animal protein for the human population," Bernard Vallat, director of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) told a news conference.
The debate over the impact of the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry has intensified in recent weeks with several countries, including the United States and Germany, taking or considering new measures to control it.
Vallat called for better training of veterinarians worldwide and for a fight against the illegal trade in antibiotics, which is widespread in poor countries and on the internet, to avoid misuse of antibiotics in rearing livestock.
"If you take the 100 poorest countries that take no precaution on this matter, we can see antibiotics passed around just like candies, without prescription," he said, noting that this was true for both human and animal antibiotics.
Livestock industry groups argue that using antibiotics in animals keeps them healthy and does not have a direct link to development of resistant strains of bacteria affecting humans.
The European Union banned the feeding of all antibiotics to livestock for growth promotion purposes as of 2006, a rare move which Vallat advocated at the global level, including in the United States.
The market represents only a thin share of the entire antibiotics market and Vallat regretted many companies had stopped making major investments in the sector.
The OIE, an intergovernmental body founded in 1924 as the Office International des Epizooties, and which now has 178 members, will organize a conference in Paris on the prudent use and monitoring of antimicrobial products in March 2013.