Consumers Union urges the phase-out of antibiotics in organic apple and pear orchards 9/13
Federal law prohibits synthetic substances in organic agriculture and food processing, including synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones and artificial food ingredients.
But the law also allows exemptions; certain synthetic materials can be listed in the regulations as allowed if no natural alternatives exist, the material is not harmful to the environment and human health, and it is deemed essential. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is the 15-member expert citizen panel charged by Congress with the important task of determining which synthetic materials are allowed.
At its upcoming biannual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky on October 22-24, the NOSB will be voting on whether to extend the use of a material that would otherwise be prohibited in organic agriculture: the antibiotic streptomycin.
While antibiotics have been prohibited for nearly all uses in organic agriculture since the federal organic regulations went into effect, two specific antibiotics have been allowed in organic apple and pear orchards.
These two antibiotics, tetracycline and streptomycin, are also used in human medicine. They are considered “critically important” to human medicine by the World Health Organization. Their use in agricultural settings increases the risk that human pathogens will develop resistance to these crucial drugs.
In April 2013, after hearing testimony from several medical experts who urged an end to the agricultural use of these important antibiotics, the NOSB voted to phase out the use of tetracycline by October 2014.
Now, at its upcoming meeting, the NOSB has the opportunity to also end the use of streptomycin, the last remaining antibiotic currently approved in organic agriculture.
Consumers Union urges the NOSB to preserve organic integrity and meet consumer expectations that "organic" means "no antibiotics." We will be at the meeting in Louisville urging the NOSB to phase streptomycin out of organics by October 2014.
We believe that organic apple and pear growers should not release this antibiotic into the environment, which increases the likelihood that antibiotic-resistant pathogens will develop. Organics should be part of the solution — helping to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics that are critical for use in human medicine.
We encourage consumers to make their voice heard as well — please submit a comment asking the NOSB to prohibit the use of streptomycin in organic apple and pear production.
You can also sign a Food & Water Watch petition which demands that the NOSB protect organic standards for once and for all, and reject the use of streptomycin on fruit trees.