The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy recently released a report titled Fueling Resistance? Antibiotics in Ethanol Production, that criticizes ethanol producers for what they claim is unnecessary use of antibiotics. Ethanol plants commonly use antimicrobials to prevent bacterial outbreaks that can interfere with the normal fermentation process.

“The epidemic of antibiotic resistance threatens every one of us,” says IATP representative David Wallinga. “The best way to keep our existing antibiotics effective is to stop unnecessary antibiotics wherever they are used—in hospitals, in animals and in ethanol production.

The report from IATP suggests that antibiotic residues in distillers’ grains, widely used in livestock feed, could lead to a buildup of resistant pathogens.

Phibro Animal Health Corporation, which produces Lactrol, an antibiotic widely used in ethanol production, took exception to the report this week. According to a company release, antibiotics are a widely used and critical tool for infection management in renewable-fuels production. Through the use of small amounts of antibiotics such as Lactrol, the United States renewable fuels industry eliminates the need to cultivate an additional 3.2 million acres to produce an extra 500 million bushels of corn.

“IATP's position, that use of antibiotics in the production process results in residues in distillers' dried grains in turn putting human health at risk is a stunningly broad conclusion not based upon fact or science,” the company insists. The Phibro release lists several key points left out of the IATP's report, including:

• The proper use of antibiotics is a safe practice in both renewable fuels and in animal husbandry that preserves our precious agricultural resources such as land and water.
•    Since its introduction in 1993, Lactrol has remained a safe product for use in renewable fuels production and distillers' grain production. It has been sold under an FDA letter of no objection in addition to the regulatory discretion of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.
• In the past 3 months Lactorl alone has been sold to greater than 55 percent of the current operating plants. The IATP report, on the other hand claims that 45 percent of current producers – about 170 plants – are able to operate without antibiotics.

Read the full report