Government Restricts the Use of Streptomycin & Tetracycline on Crops

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The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare published a draft order on the ‘Prohibition of Streptomycin + Tetracycline in Agriculture’ on December 17, 2021, which prohibits the import, manufacture, or formulation of Streptomycin and Tetracycline for use in agriculture beginning February 1, 2022.

Major Concerns:
Several crops are showing signs of antimicrobial resistance, specifically to streptomycin, used to treat tuberculosis (TB). Bacterial infections can be treated with tetracycline antibiotics. The draft order will come into force on the date of its final publication in the official gazette.
As per the World Health Organization, streptomycin is a critically important antimicrobial while tetracycline belongs to the class of highly important antimicrobials.

The order ensures a complete ban on the use of the two antibiotics in agriculture from January 1, 2024, onwards. It directed every state government to take all such steps necessary for executing the order in their state.
The draft order is the fallout of the deliberations within the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC), where the registration committee (RC) in August 2021 had approved the recommendation for phasing out the use of streptomycin and tetracycline amid growing concerns over antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The phase-out was considered “according to the availability of alternatives”.

Efforts Made by Centre for Science and Environment:
In 2019, the Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment highlighted antibiotic misuse practices in India’s crop sector. It demonstrated how Streptocycline (90:10 combinations of streptomycin and tetracycline) was being abused along the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi, Hisar (Haryana), and Fazilka (Punjab).
It discovered that farmers in the area routinely and indiscriminately used high doses of streptomycin on crops, including those for which they had no approval.

CSE recommended that these antibiotics not be used as pesticides and that they be used under expert supervision only after a bacterial disease in a crop has been diagnosed. It stated this while emphasizing the importance of using streptomycin in humans for “previously treated tuberculosis,” as well as for treating multidrug-resistant TB and certain cases of TB meningitis.
The article went on to say that all other antibiotics should be phased out. CSE has been vocal about the issue on a variety of platforms since then.

“We appreciate the government’s efforts to limit the misuse of antibiotics, particularly those that are critical to human health, such as streptomycin.” “This is a significant step forward in reducing the burden of AMR in the country,” said Rajeshwari Sinha, CSE’s programme manager, food safety team.

In May 2020, the RC accepted the recommendation of a subcommittee that streptomycin and tetracycline be completely banned with an immediate effect on crops where alternatives are available.
The RC formed the subcommittee to investigate the possibility of eliminating the use of antibiotics or antibacterial substances in agriculture if alternatives were available.

According to the notification, the draft order has been made public for the benefit of those likely to be affected. The order will be considered after 45 days from the date when copies of the Gazette of India with this order are made available to the public.

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