Ban Antibiotics on Organic Apples and Pears

Target: The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board

Goal: Stop adding antibiotics to organic apples and pears.

Most people believe that the organic food they buy is free of harmful chemicals and antibiotics; however, little known to the average consumer, the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program has been quietly allowing the use of antibiotic spray on organic apples and pears since the 1990s. Regulations under the National Organic Program (NOP) that prohibit the use of antibiotic treatment on certified organic produce make an exception for apples and pears, which are susceptible to infection by a bacterial disease known as fire blight.

Concern about the overuse of antibiotics and its association with widespread antibiotic resistance led the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to mandate that organic apple and pear growers stop using antibiotics after October 2014. However, pressure from large organic apple and pear growers threatens to postpone NOSB’s phase-out requirements until 2016, which is a threat to public safety by contributing to the antibiotic-resistance epidemic. It is a deceptive practice that is inconsistent with the purpose and philosophy of eating organic food.

There are no legitimate reasons why the use of antibiotic sprays on produce should continue.  There are several apple and pear varieties that are resistant to fire blight and the European Union, which does not allow the use of any antibiotics in agriculture, has been able to effectively grow apples and pears by using organic inputs and alternatives to antibiotics to prevent the disease. Tell the USDA not to cave to corporate pressures and to outlaw the use of antibiotics in organic fruit by the originally proposed date, October 21, 2014.


Dear Members of the National Organic Standards Board,

It has come to the attention of the public that organic farmers are permitted by the US Department of Agriculture to spray “organic” apple and pear trees with antibiotics to prevent the spread of bacterial disease. Because of recent widespread concern over antibiotic resistance that comes from overuse of antibiotics, the National Organic Program made the decision to ban the use of antibiotics on organic apples and pears after October 21, 2014. The Board is now considering pushing the date back to 2016 due to pressure from large organic apple and pear producers.

As you are aware, there are other ways to control fire blight that don’t include using antibiotics and U.S. growers that export produce to the European Union (E.U.) must comply E.U. standards that prohibit the use of antibiotics. We do not allow the use of antibiotics in other organic crops or animals, and there should not be an exception made for apples and pears. This exception is deceptive to consumers and a threat to public health. Antibiotics don’t belong in organic, period.

The concerned public asks that you reject the pressure from a minority of organic fruit growers who want to extend the use of antibiotics in fruit and that you stick with the agreed schedule and get antibiotics out of organic apples and pears by October 2014.

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: wikimedia commons

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One Comment

  1. Jim Schultz says:

    Quit tampering with our food!

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