The FAO-led initiative has been set up to promote food safety and prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistance superbugs in food and on farms across five Central Asian countries: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Financially backed by Russia, the FAO project will attempt to help national food and farming authorities understand the threats posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR), driven largely by on-farm antibiotic use.
Anna Popova, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance and Consumer Rights Protection, said Russia would use its financial strength and research capacity to support improvements to address regional AMR.
“AMR is not just a subject for scientific research – it poses very concrete risks to human health, including antibiotic residues in food products,” she said.
“We cannot underestimate this threat, and must translate our words into action,” Popova added, referencing a ground-breaking international resolution on AMR agreed at last year’s UN general assembly.
The bulk of Russia’s $3.3m funding will largely support three fronts: bolstering laws underpinning efforts to address AMR in agriculture; building the capacity of national surveillance systems to monitor and test for AMR in food; and raising awareness of the issue with all parties across the supply chain in the five Central Asian countries.
FAO deputy director-general Maria Helena Semedo praised Russia for backing its efforts to help poorer countries confront the threat posed by AMR.
“AMR is intimately connected to health, medical care, safe food production systems and the environment,” she said. “Leaving AMR unchecked would leave a dim vision of the future.”
Antimicrobial resistance – dubbed ‘antibiotics apocalypse’ by some – is a point in time when drugs used to treat common infections no longer work. Health experts claim the impact could be worse than a massive terrorist attack and may lead to millions of deaths.
The livestock industry has come under intense pressure for its role in what some claim is the perpetuation of antibiotic resistance, with many in the chain using drugs routinely to prevent animals from getting sick. But it is difficult to ask farmers to completely cut out antibiotics, as this would place some in financial jeopardy.