"Pyrrhic progress: the history of antibiotics in Anglo-American food production" with Dr Claas Kirchhelle

Past Event

11 February 2020, 5:15pm - 6:15pm

Seminar Room, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street, (Corner of Catte and Holywell Street), Oxford, OX1 3BD

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In this book talk, Claas will review central findings of his research on the past 80 years of antibiotic use, resistance, and regulation in food production with introduction by Prof Mark Harrison, Director of Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities.

Mass-introduced after 1945, antibiotics helped revolutionise food production. Farmers and veterinarians used antibiotics to prevent and treat disease, protect plants, preserve food, and promote animals’ growth. Many soon became dependent on routine antibiotic use to sustain and increase production. The resulting growth of antibiotic infrastructures came at a price. Critics blamed antibiotics for leaving dangerous residues in food, enabling bad animal welfare, and selecting for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria, which could no longer be treated with antibiotics.

Pyrrhic Progress analyses over 80 years of evolving non-human antibiotic use on both sides of the Atlantic and introduces readers to the historical and current complexities of antibiotic stewardship in a time of rising AMR.

Pyrrhic Progress can be ordered at the author discount rate at the event or via: https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/pyrrhic-progress/9780813591476

This talk includes a drinks reception and nibbles, all welcome

Kirchhelle Claas Preferred

Dr Claas Kirchhelle
Oxford Martin Fellow

Claas is an Oxford Martin Fellow for the Oxford Martin School Programme on Collective Responsibility for Infectious Disease and Lecturer of the History of Medicine at University College Dublin. His research explores the past and present of antibiotics, vaccines, bacteriophages, and infectious disease control.

"This is a great book! Essential reading for anyone concerned about the rise in antibiotics and resistance: Kirchhelle’s carefully researched text reveals the back-stories of antibiotics and farming"

– Clare Chandler, Professor in Medical Anthropology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

"Kirchhelle reveals both the local contexts and the global consequences of the historical relationship between antibiotics and food production. Beautifully written and exhaustively researched, this is a crucial work for understanding how we evaluate and react to 'risks' more broadly."

– Scott Podolsky, Harvard Medical School, author of The Antibiotic Era: Reform, Resistance, and the Pursuit of a Rational Therapeutics.

"Antibiotics fueled a great leap forward in food production in the twentieth century, but the price of that progress in terms of potential drug resistant infections was known from the start. This timely historical analysis shows us why previous warnings went unheeded and, in the current climate of concern over a post-antibiotic future, how a history of public discourse can provide salient lessons for one this century’s most pressing issues."

– Steve Hinchliffe, University of Exeter, author of Pathological Lives