A joint statement of Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, and Food and Water Watch
(Portland, OR) Today the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) rejected a petition to extend the expiration date for the use of oxytetracycline to treat fire blight in apple and pear production beyond October 21, 2014. The decision is a victory for the organic standard and advances efforts to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.
The vote came after a long and controversial debate because some apple and pear growers do not believe they have adequate alternatives to antibiotics. Consumer and environmental advocates urged them to end the use of tetracycline as soon as possible in order to meet consumer expectations and to respond to mounting evidence that antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a serious threat to public health. Antibiotics are not allowed in any other types of organic food, including production of organic livestock.
We applaud the Board for making the right decision to end the use of this antibiotic as soon as possible and we believe this timeline for ending the use of tetracycline is consistent with consumer expectations. This decision will drive the organic apple and pear market to a higher standard.
We urge the USDA to help growers continue to find workable alternative treatments for fire blight that are compatible with organic production. The Board passed a resolution to encourage the USDA to investigate a transitional option for the emergency use of tetracycline until 2017. The agency must guarantee that any emergency use is extremely limited, ends as soon as possible and, most importantly, apples and pears from treated trees cannot be sold as organic.
More background on this issue, including consumer poll results can be found HERE.