Some of the farming industry’s biggest challengers have been announced as speakers at this year’s Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) conference, to be held on 29 October at the Sainsbury’s Conference Centre in Holborn, London.
Using the theme ‘Building on Success’, the conference will examine whether recent progress in stewarding antibiotics can be maintained, and what needs to be done to better support global efforts to battle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The role of media and public opinion in achieving positive change will also be discussed, and whether UK farming’s animal health and welfare and food safety are robust enough to take advantage of opportunities as well as address upcoming market challenges.
Headlining the event will be American journalist and author on public and global health and food policy Maryn McKenna, who will be dissecting the role of the public and media in driving change in medicine stewardship.
A senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Human Health at Emory University, Ms McKenna is the author of the books Big Chicken (published in the UK under the title Plucked), Superbug, and Beating Back the Devil. She is a columnist for WIRED and a journalist for magazines including National Geographic, The New Republic and the New York Times, and her work critically examines antibiotic use in agriculture.
The Food Standards Agency will be represented at a RUMA conference for the first time, with its chair Heather Hancock opening proceedings by outlining the regulator’s vision for safe, healthy food built on farm systems which are modern, productive and demonstrate responsible use of medicines.
As at the last conference, the latest antibiotic sales data for farm animals are expected to be released by the Veterinary Medicine Directorate’s (VMD) head of Antimicrobial Resistance Dr Kitty Healey; she will also provide recent surveillance findings for antibiotic-resistance genes within farm animals and their food products, and will discuss how the industry can maintain progress and lead the world in responsible use.
While antibiotic use and AMR remain key themes in the event, broader aspects of farm animal health and welfare, emerging resistance in other pathogens and wider challenges presented by disease will be debated. Behaviour change among farmers and their veterinary surgeons, and the economic and reputational opportunities of better health and food safety will be covered as part of this.
To provide insight in these areas, the following have also been confirmed as speakers:
- Stuart Roberts, NFU
- Dr Shabbir Simjee, RUMA Independent Scientific Group
- Duncan Sinclair, British Retail Consortium
- Sue Lockhart, Red Tractor
- Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, Moredun Research Institute.
- Dr Simon Doherty, British Veterinary Association
Dr Christine Middlemiss, the chief veterinary officer, will be concluding the event with a summary of the learnings from the day and a call to action for the next two years.