Union agriculture ministry prohibits use of TB antibiotics on crops

The draft order prohibits import, manufacture or formulation of Streptomycin and Tetracycline for use in agriculture from February 1, 2022; enforces complete ban from Jan 1, 2024

By Deepak Bhati
Published: Tuesday 21 December 2021
Union agriculture ministry prohibits use of two TB antibiotics, streptomycin and tetracyline, on crops. Photo: iStock

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

The draft order will come into force on the date of its final publication in the official gazette.

The draft order comes growing concerns over antimicrobial resistance observed in various crops, particularly to streptomycin, which is used in the treatment of tuberculosis (TB). Tetracycline antibiotics find application in the treatment of bacterial infections. 

Streptomycin is a critically important antimicrobial while tetracycline belongs to the class of highly important antimicrobials, according to the World Health Organization.

The order ensures a complete ban on the use of the two antibiotics in agriculture 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”.

Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment in 2019 highlighted the practices of antibiotic misuse in the crop sector in India. It showed how streptocycline (90:10 combinations of streptomycin and tetracycline) was being misused along the banks of the Yamuna in national capital Delhi, Hisar (Haryana) and Fazilka (Punjab).

It found that farmers there routinely and indiscriminately used high doses of streptomycin on crops, including on the ones for which they had not received any approval.

CSE had recommended these antibiotics should not be used as pesticides, and that they be used under expert supervision only after a bacterial disease has been diagnosed in a crop. It said so underlining the importance of streptomycin use in humans for “previously treated tuberculosis” and for treating multidrug-resistant TB and certain cases of TB meningitis.

It added that all other antibiotics should be phased out. Since then CSE has been continuously advocating about the issue on various platforms.

 “We appreciate the efforts being made by the government in limiting the misuse of antibiotics, particularly the critically important ones for human health such as streptomycin. This is an important step ahead towards reducing the burden of AMR in the country,” said Rajeshwari Sinha, programme manager, food safety team, CSE.

The RC accepted the recommendation of a sub-committee in May 2020, saying that the use of streptomycin and tetracycline be completely banned with immediate effect on crops where alternatives are available.

The RC had set up the sub-committee to look into the possibility of phasing out the use of antibiotics or antibacterial substances in agriculture if alternatives were available.

The draft order, as informed by the notification, has been published for the information of those who would likely be affected. It would be taken into consideration after the expiry of 45 days from the date on which copies of the Gazette of India containing this order are made available to the public.

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