I applaud your decision to reject the petition to extend the expiration date for the use of tetracycline on organic apple and pear trees beyond Oct. 21, 2014. I urge you to take the same principled stand and reject the pressure from a vocal minority of organic apple and pear growers who want to continue to use the antibiotic streptomycin until October 2017.
One of the reasons I buy organic food is to do my part to solve the problem of antibiotic-resistant human pathogens. I don’t want to play any part in the abuse of antibiotics by industrial agriculture.
According to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the U.S. at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.
In light of these new findings, I’m especially disappointed in the exception to the National Organic Program’s “no antibiotics” rule. As we correctly do not allow the use of antibiotics in other organic crops or in animals, why do we still allow it in apples and pears? I’m concerned that if the National Organic Standards Board doesn’t follow through with its scheduled phase-out of the antibiotic streptomycin on Oct. 21, 2014, we’ll never see an end of its use.
There are effective means of stopping this problem without resorting to dangerous antibiotics. And there are apple and pear species that are naturally resistant to this blight.
Antibiotics don’t belong in organic. The non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in agriculture endangers the environment and human health by setting the stage for human pathogens to become resistant to antibiotics that are critically important to human medicine. Organic principles don’t support the use of antibiotics, a synthetic off-farm input, to address fire blight.
Thank you for considering my comments. I hope that you will side with consumers and the majority of apple and pear growers who agree that antibiotics shouldn’t be used in organic.
Organic Consumers Association
In April 2013, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) rejected a petition to extend the deadline for allowing growers of organic apples and pears to spray their fruit with tetracycline, an antibiotic. Thanks in part to the 32,619 comments submitted by OCA supporters, growers of organic apples and pears will have to stop spraying their fruit with tetracycline after Oct. 21, 2014.
That's a victory. But only a partial one.
Please sign the petition below, telling the NOSB you want them to honor the Oct. 21, 2014 deadline for ending the use of another antibiotic, streptomycin, on organic apples and pears.
Last year's vote to honor the Oct. 21, 2014, deadline for ending the use of tetracycline on organic apples and pears was close. In order for the industry to get what it wanted—an extended deadline—it needed 10 out of the 15 NOSB members to vote in favor of extending the deadline. Industry lost—and consumers won—by only one vote. (Industry needed 10 NOSB members to vote in favor of extending the deadline. But they got only nine votes).
The nine NOSB members who voted in favor of using tetracycline on organic apples and pears were Carmela Beck of Driscoll, Wendy Fulwider of Organic Valley, Nick Maravell of Nick's Organic Farm, Tracy Favre of Holistic Management International, Harold Austin of Zirkle Fruit Company, John Foster of Earthbound Farm, Joe Dickson of Whole Foods Market, Zea Sonnabend of California Certified Organic Farmers, and Mac Stone of the Kentucky Organic Program.
The NOSB members who voted against using tetracycline in organic were Colehour Bondera of Kanalani Ohana Farm, Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides, Francis Thicke of Radiance Dairy, and all three of the NOSB's consumer/public interest advocates, Jean Richardson, Jennifer Taylor and C. Reuben Walker.
When the NOSB votes again this year, this time on whether to get streptomycin out of organic, will we get the votes we need, like we did last year with tetracycline? Maybe not, and here's why.
When the tetracycline vote took place last year, the NOSB members who voted to honor the deadline were operating under the assumption that apple and pear growers might still be able to use tetracycline under certain, extreme circumstances. That's because they knew that after the vote took place on whether or not to extend the deadline, the NOSB planned a separate vote on whether or not to recommend to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) that it examine whether it could use its authority to allow the use of tetracycline in emergency situations, even if the deadline for getting tetracycline out of organics had passed.
The NOSB voted unanimously to make that recommendation to the NOP. But the NOP came back and said it has no mechanism to establish a federal emergency spray program for fire blight on organic apple and pear orchards through either the Organic Food Production Act or the USDA organic regulations.
The NOP's decision means that emergency or no, organic apple and pear growers can't use tetracycline after Oct. 21, 2014.
Now, the NOP's Crops Subcommittee is recommending that the NOSB vote at its meeting next week (April 29 - May 2, 2014) to extend the deadline for streptomycin, instead of honoring the deadline, as it did for tetracycline.
Given these two developments, it's going to be tougher to get the votes we need to get streptomycin out of organics.
Please tell the NOSB that you oppose extending the deadline for allowing streptomycin in the production of organic apples and pears.