Governor Jerry Brown vetoed state Senate Bill 835, legislation that would have phased out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and required a veterinarian prescription for all antibiotics.

The Food and Drug Administration, through its Guidance 213, has established voluntary guidelines set to go into effect in 2016 to phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion. Governor Brown, in his letter to the state senate, said the legislation would codify the FDA standard and was “unnecessary since most major animal producers have already pledged to go beyond the FDA standard.”

While he vetoed the legislation, antibiotic resistance is a topic of concern for Governor Brown. In his letter, he says more needs to be done to “understand and reduce our reliance on antibiotics.”  To achieve that, he directed the Department of Food and Agriculture to work with the California legislature “to find new and effective ways to reduce the unnecessary antibiotics used for livestock and poultry.”

Critics of the bill, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised Governor Brown’s actions claiming the bill does not go far enough. Jonathan Kaplan, director of the food and agriculture program at NRDC, said instead of actions like SB 835 of the FDA guidance, “we need to lift the curtain of secrecy that now shrouds the industry’s use of these drugs and eliminate unnecessary antibiotic use so that these precious medicines keep working for people who need them.”

The bill’s author, Senator Jerry Hill, a Democrat representing San Mateo, Calif., said in a July 26 editorial that ran in the Sacramento Bee that antibiotic resistance is a multifaceted issue that does not have a single, silver-bullet answer. Pointing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sen. Hill notes that “up to 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed by doctors are not needed or are improperly prescribed, contributing to the growth of resistance.”

Addressing antibiotic resistance is a topic of concern across the country, and in late September President Obama signed an executive order to stop the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which he calls a “serious threat to public health and the economy.” The order calls for the creation of a Task Force that will develop a 5-year action plan to implement a National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (Strategy). Among the goals in the strategy is to continue taking steps to eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion in food-producing animals.

On the heels of Governor Brown’s veto and President Obama’s executive order, the FDA released its fourth annual report on the sales and distribution of antibiotics approved for use in food-producing animals. While the report notes a 16 percent increase in the amount of medically important antibiotics sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals from 2009 to 2012, FDA says the data does not represent how much or in what way the technologies were ultimately used. It is possible that veterinarians or producers may purchase antibiotics with a plan to use them but never actually administer them, the agency said.