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Covid alerts investors to farming’s antibiotics risk, group says

The farm sector is the top buyer of antibiotics, using them to prevent disease and promote growth of animals, even healthy ones.
Image: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

The Covid-19 crisis is drawing fresh investor interest into tackling an over-reliance on antibiotics in farming that risks causing future pandemics, according to Fairr.

The group, which lobbies to improve practices in animal farming, said investors are thinking more about how overuse of the medicines causes antimicrobial resistance, which when passed to humans is making infections harder to treat.

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The farm sector is the top buyer of antibiotics, using them to prevent disease and promote growth of animals — even healthy ones. Last month, a group of global leaders said a more responsible use of antibiotics should be a top priority to protect vital medicines. The Investor Action on AMR initiative, which Fairr helped start last year, now has support from more than a dozen investors with about $11 trillion in assets.

Federated Hermes Inc.’s EOS, one of the investor partners in the initiative, said it has “stepped up engagement” across the food industry for more action.

Covid-19 put the “impacts of a future antimicrobial resistance pandemic sharply at the front of investors’ minds,” said Bruce Duguid, head of stewardship at EOS in London. “The key difference with Covid is that AMR is entirely preventable if we can take the right steps to avoid over-use of antibiotics critical to human health, and now is the time to take action.”

Investors are also turning to agritech for solutions. ADM Capital’s Cibus Funds has backed Connecterra, a Dutch startup using artificial intelligence to detect illness in cattle faster and lower antibiotics use. Cibus plans to invest more in Connecterra soon, said Alastair Cooper, head of early stage investments.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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