There’s a dirty little secret in some organic fruit orchards.
That juicy apple or pear that you just paid triple the price for may have been sprayed with antibiotics.
Yep – that’s right. The USDA has approved “new options for organic producers and processors.”
Last August, the USDA quietly released this ruling:
The National Organic Program published a final rule today that addresses the use of three substances in organic agriculture with specific limitations that would support production and processing of organic products.Effective August 3, the allowance for the use of tetracycline in organic apple and pear production will be extended until Oct. 21, 2014, providing two years for the development of alternatives for fire blight control. Additionally, producers will have the option of using formic acid as a means of controlling varroa and tracheal mites in organic honey bee operations, while processors will have the option of using attapulgite, a nonsynthetic processing aid, for purification of plant and animal oils.
The message the article contains is blunt, unequivocal and terrifying. Professor Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England said:
It is clear we might never see global warming. The apocalyptic scenario is that when I need a new hip in 20 years I’ll die from a routine infection because we’ve run out of antibiotics” 20 years. Two decades. Our lifetime.
The World Health Organisation has also issue a warning saying that the world is moving towards a ‘post antibiotic era’ unless urgent action is taken.
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, mouth sores, black hairy tongue, sore throat, dizziness, headache, or rectal discomfort may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, notify your doctor or pharmacist promptly.
Tell your doctor immediately if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur:sunburn (sun sensitivity), nail discoloration, muscle pain, difficult or painful swallowing, change in the amount of urine, brown/gray tooth discoloration, numbness/tingling of the hands/feet, unusual fatigue, new signs of infection (e.g., persistent sore throat, fever, chills).
Tell your doctor immediately if any of these rare but very serious side effects occur: hearing changes (e.g., ringing in the ears, decreased hearing), persistent or severe headache, vision changes (e.g., blurred vision), easy bruising/bleeding, severe stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing eyes/skin, dark urine.
This medication may rarely cause a severe intestinal condition (Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea) due to a resistant bacteria. This condition may occur during treatment or weeks to months after treatment has stopped.. Do not use anti-diarrhea products or narcotic pain medications if you have the following symptoms because these products may make them worse. Tell your doctor immediately if you develop: persistent diarrhea, abdominal or stomach pain/cramping, blood/mucus in your stool..
Use of this medication for prolonged or repeated periods may result in oral thrush or a new yeast infection (oral or vaginal fungal infection). Contact your doctor if you notice white patches in your mouth, a change in vaginal discharge or other new symptoms.
A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is unlikely, but seek immediate medical attention if it occurs. Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction may include: rash, skin lesions/sores, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing, new or worsening swelling/pain in the joints, chest pain, fast/irregular heartbeat.
This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
While organic principles require the use of biological, physical or mechanical methods or natural controls to prevent or control crop pests, weeds, and diseases, the organic regulations permit use of carefully evaluated inputs when natural methods are insufficient to address critical issues of production.
The Cornucopia Institute surveyed all certified organic apple and pear growers in the United States. Of the apple producers who responded to the survey (a strong 11% response rate), The majority, 56%, reported that they have never used oxytetracycline or streptomycin in their orchards. Even in the giant apple producing state of Washington, 54% had never used antibiotics on their trees/fruit.
Obviously, the majority of farmers have proven, by using more conservative cultural practices (not crowding trees, using resistant cultivars and rootstock, etc.) and naturally-based remedies, that the use of antibiotics is not essential in apple production.
As well, growers who produce fruit for export to Europe do not use antibiotics because the application is banned from use under international organic regulations. You can learn more about the use of antibiotics in organic fruit production HERE.
Consumers have two more seasons to contend with this issue. The National Organics Standards Board has just voted that the spraying will be allowed to continue past October 2014. Until then, however, that organic apple you’re biting into might not be as organic as you think it is.
The industry has scoffed at concerns of consumers, producing reams of statistics that say a person would have to consume 1000 apples per day to ingest a dangerous, or even therapeutic, amount of antibiotics. What these scientists don’t really understand is that the problem with the use of antibiotics in organic fruit production is greater than simply concerns about antibiotic resistance. The issue is trust.
Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org