What Do Antibiotics Have To Do With Organic Apples, Pears?

Apr 9, 2013

Organic apple
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Not all organic food is created equally. Unlike beef or chicken, apples and pears can be certified as organic, even if they’re treated with antibiotics to prevent disease. Food safety groups are meeting this week in Portland to petition against the practice.

Organic apple and pear growers can use two kinds of antibiotics. You may have taken them to treat acne or tuberculosis.

For apple and pear trees, the antibiotics can cure a disease called fire blight.  Fire blight can devastate an orchard.

But food safety advocates say antibiotics shouldn’t be allowed. They’re petitioning the National Organic Standards Board to ban the use of antibiotics in organic fruit.

Lisa Bunin is with the Center for Food Safety. She says the use of antibiotics in food production...“effectively enhances the spread of antibacterial resistance.”

Some organic growers say arid eastern Washington and Oregon aren’t as prone to fire blight as other parts of the country that get more summertime rain. Moisture, along with high temperatures, create conditions favorable for the spread of the disease.

Researchers are developing an alternative to antibiotics due out in the next year.

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