However, resistant bacteria were not limited to hospitals. Accordingly, the Zeit accused farmers and veterinarians of overusing antibiotics and endangering public health for the sake of cheap meat and quick profits. In response, furious farmers and veterinarians picketed the Zeit building in Hamburg.
However, farmers failed to win public sympathy. In a Zeit interview, Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt went so far as to suggest restricting veterinary prescription rights. Six months later, the German government passed a new one-health based strategy to reduce bacterial resistance DART Now focussing primarily on bacterial resistance, German controversies about agricultural antibiotics are sixty-four years old. It did not take long for side effects to emerge. Agricultural antibiotic use could cause residues in food and the environment, enable substandard welfare conditions, and select for bacterial resistance.
Faced with these hazards, Germans had to decide how to regulate the former miracle substances. However, different antibiotic hazards entail different regulatory responses: whereas it is sufficient to enforce drug withdrawal times to prevent residues in animal tissues and upgrade husbandry methods to improve welfare, only a permanent reduction of antibiotic use will curb bacterial resistance. Establishing antibiotic risk priorities is not straightforward. According to the sociologist Ulrich Beck, the modern category of risk has substituted absolute truth with hundreds of relative truths.
Risk's virtual, probability based, anticipatory nature means that everything can be but nothing is risky. Risk is the anticipation of catastrophe but not the actual catastrophe. The anticipatory dimension of risk influences human expectations and triggers actions designed to avoid anticipated outcomes. The risks we think we perceive and which scare us are the mirror image of ourselves and our cultural perceptions.
The concept of risk developed by Beck and others has given rise to a rich vein of literature on the commodification and distribution of risk and the changing and contested evaluation of risky substances and technologies. Meanwhile, Alexander von Schwerin has pointed to the formation of risk epistemes amongst groups of scientists and resulting evaluations and representations of risk and risk policies. However, neither Jasanoff nor Schwerin extend their analysis to the wider cultural staging and evaluation of risks amongst consumers and lay users of risky technologies.
This paper supplements research on civic epistemologies and risk epistemes with a focus on the development and impact of popular vernacular risk cultures. In turn, this toxicity- and carcinogen-focussed vernacular Angst influenced both scientific risk epistemes and regulatory decision-making. Whereas the public's Chemie -focus led to an early ban of antibiotic food preservation and an impressive residue-monitoring program, it also reduced political pressure for measures to combat bacterial resistance proliferation.
Following a brief s spurt of resistance-inspired regulation, West German attempts to address resistance proliferation remained stunted. Germany's focus on residues changed only gradually after reunification and led to a ban of antibiotic growth promoters AGPs by Publishing their findings in , Thomas Jukes and E. Stockstad found that if consumed at low subtherapeutic doses, many antibiotics allowed animals to process feeds more efficiently and grow quicker.
In addition to providing significant feedstuff savings, AGPs also promised to control bacterial herd infections. This latter effect was particularly important in the increasingly densely populated postwar sties. As a consequence, many of the 11, new farms created in West Germany by were no bigger than ten hectares and not specialised on animal production. However, major changes were afoot.
Despite popular Kulturkritik of American mass culture, 15 West German planners looked to the US for ways to intensify agriculture. During the early s, enthusiastic agricultural media reports and exchange programs led many younger farmers to embrace US farming methods. Animal production was further fuelled by West Germany's economic take-off and concomitant Fresswelle wave of gluttony.
In order to supply growing demand during times of rising labour costs and international competition, farmers began to invest in labour saving intensive animal production systems. Pioneered in the US, these year-round factory-like systems relied on regular antibiotic use to maintain herd health rather than veterinary treatment of individual animals. By the early s, agricultural antibiotics had become a fixture in West German sties. In farming magazines, articles and commercials praised AGPs, antibiotic therapies, and numerous other applications. AGPs remained banned for egg laying poultry, feeder cattle, and dairy cows.
However, by the second half of the s, more sceptical comments began to appear. In the vernacular risk parlance of West Germans, agricultural antibiotics were therefore grouped in close linguistic association with other Chemie like hormones and food dyes. Fear of Chemie had deep roots in German culture. Since the nineteenth century Lebensreform , many Germans had participated in movements emphasizing the benefits of unadulterated food.
During the interwar period, the growing focus on purer and therefore healthier lifestyles had given rise to numerous alternative agricultural and dietary schools. For supporters of alternative nutrition and agriculture, the adulteration of food and bodies was linked to degenerative diseases and cancer. German scientists contributed to these fears by increasingly distinguished between Wirk - and Fremdstoffe active and foreign substances in food. The Nazis, in their misguided quest for physical and racial superiority, also adopted elements of Chemie -free movements.
Concerned about adulterated nutrition and carcinogens, the Nazis supported preventive health and dietary reform campaigns and research. Nonetheless, interwar public and expert concerns about Chemie left a strong mark on Germans. With many supporters of food purity retaining influential posts, the postwar years saw a rapid resurgence of public Chemie -fears and an expert risk episteme firmly focused on the chemical adulteration of food and bodies.
Under the leadership of Adolf Butenandt and pharmacologist Hermann Druckrey, the German Research Foundation's Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft , DFG commission on food colorants Farbstoffkommission popularized Druckrey's so-called summation concept according to which even small doses of certain substances could cause cancer. The West German risk episteme was also successful internationally. Druckrey's demands for a statutory list of approved substances found widespread public approval in West Germany and reinforced the popular risk vernacular surrounding Chemie.
In , the German Society for Nutrition called for a reduction of non-essential chemical food additives. Resurgent Chemieangst also provoked attacks on antibiotic use in food production. Founded by the chemist Hans-Adalbert Schweigart, the Gesellschaft attracted many former Nazis but could later also point to Albert Schweitzer and Linus Pauling as prominent supporters. In , it called for more research on agricultural antibiotics. Members of the Gesellschaft were concerned about bacterial resistance but mostly worried that antibiotics would disrupt the intestinal flora's vital powers.
An inventor of the wholefood diet and former Nazi, Kollath's book Die Ordnung unserer Nahrung warned against the degradation of living food through processing. Kollath warned that antibiotics selected for temporary resistance, destroyed the natural intestinal flora, and reduced meat's nutritional quality. Despite many similarities to contemporary US legislation, 36 one of the German food law's notable bans concerned antibiotic preservatives. Ahead of the reform, Prof.
The new food law would permit substances only after manufacturers had shown them to be safe.
Amongst the substances Souci specifically opposed were antibiotic food preservatives. Already licensed in the US and Canada and under consideration in the UK, tetracycline ice and dips were used to preserve fish, shellfish, and poultry. Passed in December , section 4b of the West German food law banned the use of antibiotic preservatives. Other substances banned by section 4b were potentially carcinogenic preservatives, pesticide residues, and hormones with thyreostatic effects. Despite referring to the selection for bacterial resistance to justify banning antibiotic preservation, officials did not express concern about similar resistance selection on farms.
Aware of antibiotic resistance since the early s, researchers thought that bacterial resistance proliferated only vertically in a hereditary fashion. Bacteria were either naturally resistant or developed resistance through random mutations. Whereas antibiotics selected for resistant bacteria, discontinuing antibiotic use would end this evolutionary advantage and lead to resistant bacteria's competitive inhibition by sensitive bacteria.
Because resistant strains would be subject to competitive inhibition once outside of antibiotic environments, s experts could easily express concern about spreading resistance in hospitals whilst remaining unconcerned about similar resistance selection on farms. Until , West Germany had no unified drug law and the new law was quickly made obsolete by the contemporaneous thalidomide scandal. It was only in that a new drug law created a mandatory licensing system based on efficacy and safety controls.
However, permit evaluations cannot have been too demanding since the number of special permits, permit modifications, and other rulings had grown to 17, by In , Prof. Instead, officials and media commentators boasted about the superiority of West German food safety and complained about lax foreign standards. In Britain, unique research facilities were gradually shifting concerns away from residues to the issue of bacterial resistance proliferation.
Starting in the mids, British scientists published alarming data on the spread of resistant bacteria on farms and in hospitals. German reactions to the Netherthorpe reports were mixed and mostly linked the dangers of resistance to the immediate presence of antibiotic residues. During the early s, influential researchers like Hans Knothe from the University of Kiel claimed that there was no evidence of harm resulting from AGP-use.
A decade of experience had shown that allergies would not emerge because AGPs were too low-dosed and residues were destroyed by cooking. The Chemie -focus proved hard to break. In , the Zeit followed suit and warned about resistant epidemics resulting from overuse of agricultural antibiotics.
The staging of the new risk had been unsuccessful. West German farmers shared the national media's culturally ingrained focus on Chemie -residues. Although most farmers reacted hostile to consumer criticism, farming magazines featured many articles warning about exposure to Chemie in food and the environment. On fields and in sties, Chemie was considered beneficial, in human bodies Chemie was equated with Gift. Lacking national residue controls, dairies and magazines informed farmers how to avoid antibiotic residues in milk when treating cows for mastitis a wide group of bacterial udder infections.
By contrast, warnings about bacterial resistance rarely featured. In , Britain announced pioneering resistance-motivated AGP bans. Compelled by scientific and public pressure, the British government had convened the so-called Swann Committee in Only antibiotics considered medically irrelevant were to be included in AGPs.
Although resulting reforms failed to reduce either antibiotic use or bacterial resistance, the British Swann report heralded a major shift of antibiotic regulation and put significant pressure on other European governments to reform their antibiotic regulations. In Germany, reform calls were endorsed by the DFG and led to the formation of a new expert and regulatory risk episteme focusing on the hazards of bacterial resistance. Feed antibiotics should:. With the exception of penicillin feeds, which were to be banned immediately, the Commission recommended a transitional period of three to four years for the introduction of AGP-restrictions.
It was hoped that this would foster the development of nontherapeutic AGPs.
Toxic confusion: the dilemma of antibiotic regulation in West German food production (1951–1990)
Although it endorsed the Kewitz report and banned penicillin AGPs as early as , the West German government could not enact further restrictions on its own. The directive gave member states up to six years to phase out penicillin, tetracyclines, and the macrolide spiramycin from AGPs. However, German media commentators did not think that phasing out AGPs went far enough. Instead, the s and s saw an intensification of Chemie -fears and portrayals of farmers as irresponsible Chemie - Bauern chemical farmers. Regarding antibiotics, the resurgent popular risk vernacular of Chemie residues once again overshadowed the risk of resistance proliferation and shaped German antibiotic regulation.
In , a Spiegel cover featured a table laden with meat products bearing poison Gift signs Fig. The intensification of German concerns about antibiotic residues was no coincidence. In , newspapers had reported a major residue scandal in Bavaria. Between and , the city of Munich had analyzed 19, animal carcasses for antibiotic residues. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem?
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