May 5, 2014
Streptomycin will not be allowed in organic orchards

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has voted not to extend use of streptomycin in organic apple and pear orchards beyond the current deadline. That means organic apple and pear growers will not be allowed to use the antibiotic after Oct. 21.

NOSB, an advisory body for USDA’s National Organic Program, made the decision May 2, during its spring 2014 meeting, according to The Cornucopia Institute.

Organic orchardists have been allowed to use streptomycin, as a last resort, to control fire blight. The phase-out of the antibiotic’s use has been scheduled for Oct. 21, 2014. During the NOSB meeting, orchardists and board members Harold Austen and Zea Sonnabend made a motion to extend the phase-out until Oct. 21, 2017, in order to give more time for on-farm research and for orchardists to explore alternatives. The motion failed to gain the required two-thirds majority, however. Ten votes were needed to pass, but the eight-to-seven result fell two votes short, according to The Cornucopia Institute.

NOSB made the same decision about another antibiotic, oxytetracycline, last year. Use of both antibiotics will not be allowed in organic apple and pear orchards after Oct. 21.

The U.S. Apple Association was disappointed with NOSB’s decision, because “an adequate substitute for treatment of fire blight – a crippling plant disease for our growers – has not yet been fully developed,” said Wendy Brannen, USApple’s director of consumer health and public relations.

“Our industry was hopeful for a longer phase-out period for streptomycin to allow for development of better alternatives. Tetracycline use was already eliminated by the board last year, so this is a double-hit for the apple industry,” Brannen said.

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