Sparks really flew at the National Organic Standards Board meeting in Portland, Oregon yesterday. In one of the most contentious issues to come before the organic community in many years, the continued use of antibiotics (oxytetracycline) on tree fruit was on the agenda.
Apple growers from Washington State petitioned the USDA to allow for the continued use of oxytetracycline to control fire blight on apple and pear trees. The current conditional use is set to expire in October 2014. Some farmers testified that they would go out of business, or exit organics, if the antibiotic, which is the same material as is used to treat human illness, is prohibited from use.
Public interest groups provided over 55,000 signatures from concerned consumers. It was disturbing that certain members of the corporate sector in organics, even before the meeting started, attempted to discredit and devalue the outpouring of sentiment from consumers (mostly accomplished through web-based petitions). Even Consumers Union, the respected publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, was challenged on the propriety of their findings.
Medical experts testified that environmental contamination, by using air blast sprayers to apply the same antibiotics as humans depend on, over wide acreage, is a significant danger in developing antibiotic resistant bacteria. Consumers are understandably concerned when measurable residues of drugs are found in certified organic fruit (or any food for that matter).
We thank the NOSB for voting to prohibit the following non-organic or synthetic substances that are not essential to organic production and/or dangerous to human health or the environment (in some cases the manufacturers of these materials refused to transparently share their production methodology in order to fully evaluate their products).
1. Conventional sugar beet fiber – unanimous against
2. DBDMH (antimicrobial treatment in meat processing) – unanimous against
3. Sulfuric acid (preprocessing seaweed as a nutraceutical) – unanimous against
4. Conventional barley fiber (as a nutritional additive) – 12 against; 3 for: prohibited in organics