Pyrrhic Progress analyses over half a century of antibiotic use, regulation, and resistance in US and British food production. Mass-introduced after 1945, antibiotics helped revolutionize post-war agriculture. Food producers 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 reconstructs the complicated negotiations that accompanied this process of risk prioritization between consumers, farmers, and regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. Unsurprisingly, solutions differed: while Europeans implemented precautionary antibiotic restrictions to curb AMR, consumer concerns and cost-benefit assessments made US regulators focus on curbing drug residues in food. The result was a growing divergence of antibiotic stewardship and a rise of AMR. Kirchhelle's comprehensive analysis of evolving non-human antibiotic use and the historical complexities of antibiotic stewardship provides important insights for current debates on the global burden of AMR.
"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" "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 Ratio" "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" "Pyrrhic Progress is an excellent work of scholarship that makes important, path-breaking contributions to the history of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, politics, and policymaking in the United States and Britain in the post-World War II era. The connection between guarding against and preparing for antimicrobial resistance and climate change is fantastic, and no other work has examined these important issues as exhaustively."--Kendra Smith-Howard "author of Pure and Modern Milk: An Environmental History since 1900"