By Dana Shultz for Diets In Review
Consumers were enraged this week after learning that farmers in the Washington State area have petitioned the USDA for continued use of a certain antibiotic on fruit trees. The petition took place at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in Portland, Oregon, where the current conditional use was set to expire.
The antibiotic in question is oxytetracycline, which is used to fight fire blight in apple and pear trees. Fire blight, a contagious disease that primarily affects apples and pears, has been known to destroy an entire orchard in a single growing season.
While consumers dislike use of the antibiotic on organic crops – 35,000 signatures so far, to be exact – farmers contest that neglecting use of it could potentially put them out of business. If the movement to ban oxytetracycline took effect, many farmers involved in the petition threatened to leave the organic growing community.
Opponents of the antibiotic argue safety as their main concern, since the product used is the same material used to treat human illness. And although medical experts offer that antibiotics distributed by air blast sprayers over large plots of land are far more dangerous than how oxytetracycline is used, there is still valid concern when residue of the drug is being clearly found on “certified organic fruit.”
Use of oxytetracycline has been an area of contention for growers and consumers for years. The issue, however, went to vote earlier this week and played in favor of consumers. The NOSB voted to prohibit several non-organic and synthetic substances that are considered non essential to organic farming.
See a list of those substances along with more information about the dangers of antibiotic consumption at cornucopia.org.