Prohibiting the Use of the Antibiotic: Tetracycline in Organic Apple and Pear Trees (by Guest Writer Raafat Samad)

An Introduction:

Organic Apples&PearsFirst, meet Raafat here.  Then, read on…

After volunteering at various farms with Kamelia at Vibrant Lemon Tree, a current issue that arises in my community site is the new law that is going to be effective in October of 2013 regarding restricting the use of antibiotics on pear and apple trees. This is a very popular issue that is being talked a lot about in my community site. The use of these antibiotics has been allowed in organic apple and pear production for nearly 20 years and it is now about to finally change. Many are nervous about what is going to happen with the price increase especially because of the high demand of organic apples and pears in supermarkets. Another issue that arises with the use of the antibiotic, Tetracycline is that bacteria are becoming antibiotic resistant and even more difficult to destroy especially when humans are given this specific type of antibiotic for treatment. My research question that I will be addressing is: Why is the use of the antibiotic Tetracycline being restricted in organic apple and pear trees?  I will be writing to the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Program and I will be addressing why I believe the usage of the antibiotic Tetracycline should be prohibited in organic pear and apple trees.

The Research Collection:

Here are some articles that have helped me better understand the issues regarding the use of the antibiotic Tetracycline in organic fruit trees:

Source 1:

“Fire Blight Control, Nature’s Way.” The United States Department of Agriculture. Web. 29 May

2013. <http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan98/fire0198.htm&gt;.

This article was published on The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. This is a well-known and trusted website that offers up to date information that is occurring in the food industry. This article addressed what the Fire Blight disease actually is and what the actual name of the bacterium is that causes this disease in the fruit trees. This article was very informative and it explained what actually occurs with the Fire Blight disease and that the wind, rain and insects actually transmit the bacterium to the blossom of the fruit which eventually infects the stem and kills the entire tree.

This article also explained that a problem that arises with eliminating the use of antibiotics is that there is a disease called fire blight and this is a highly contagious and deadly disease that is killing the farmers’ trees. This article states that, “The bacterium Erwinia amylovora causes the blight. Wind, rain, and insects carry the bacteria to fruit blossoms. Warm, wet weather helps the bacteria reproduce. Once a large population builds up, the bacteria can infect the blossom and spread internally through the stem. Fire blight isn’t a problem every year, but when it does flare up, growers can spend thousands of dollars removing infected tree limbs” (Fire Blight Control, Nature’s Way).

Source 2:

“Organic Integrity Upheld at Portland NOSB Meeting.” Cornucopia Institute RSS. N.p., n.d. 16

Apr. 2013. Web. 26 May 2013. <http://www.cornucopia.org/2013/04/organic-integrity-

upheld-at-portland-nosb-meeting/>.

This article was very helpful in helping me find information on how many farmers actually use the antibiotic tetracycline on their trees. The Cornucopia Institute is a trusted source because it is an organization that promotes economic justice for family scale farming. This article also addressed the consumer’s distrust in organic products because of the fact that antibiotics are being used in fruit trees. Also, this article mentioned that there are alternative ways in protecting the farmers trees, and that antibiotics aren’t the only solution to treat the fire blight disease.

This article describes that another issue that arises with the use of antibiotics is that many organic consumers are alarmed from the fact that antibiotics are being used in organic fruit trees. This article states that, “…Consumer confidence in organics is critical to the entire organic community.  Consumers, who are increasingly realizing that antibiotics are used in organic apple and pear production, understandably feel betrayed.  And the reputation of the organic label suffers.  Keeping consumer trust in the organic label is vital for ensuring the future of all organics” (Organic Integrity Upheld at Portland NOSB Meeting).

Cornucopia also conducted a nationwide survey of organic orchardists just to get an idea of how many farmers are actually using the antibiotic Tetracycline. Their results consisted of: “Of the apple growers who responded to the survey, only 24% have ever used tetracycline, which lessened our concerns that an entire segment of the organic industry would crumble with the decision to prohibit tetracycline.  Finally, preventive measures are already available, and more will be available in the near future” (Organic Integrity Upheld at Portland NOSB Meeting). Prohibiting the usage of Tetracycline in organic fruit trees is the best decision to take in order to maintain our health as human beings. There are many other natural ways to cure Fire Blight. Tetracycline isn’t the only solution, therefore; it really doesn’t have to stay this way.

Source 3:

Terry, Lynne. “Use of Antibiotic in Organic Pear, Apple Trees Will Stop in Controversial Move.”

            OregonLive.com. The Oregonian, 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 May 2013.

<http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/04/use_of_antibiotic_in_organic

_p.html>.

This article was from the well-known Oregonian Newspaper and it offered me information that is up to date on my current issue that I am addressing. I found this article to be the most helpful because it was very informative as well as interesting. This article addressed the side effects of using the antibiotic Tetracycline in fruit trees and what could possibly happen to us human beings if this antibiotic were to be used continuously. I also liked to use this source because it was talking about what the city of Portland ruled which they decided to ban the use of Tetracycline in organic fruit trees. I also liked this source because it included the opinions of the certified organic farmer’s that are located in Hood River, Oregon. For example, Brady Jacobson, an organic farmer in Hood River states that, “Once that happens, it puts the fear of God in you. It takes 12 years to bring a pear tree into production and six years to bring an apple tree into production. It’s not like planting row crops” (Terry). It is very unfortunate to hear that when Fire blight strikes, it kills trees and an infection can wipe out an orchard.

This article also addressed that the main reason why antibiotic usage needs to be stopped is because it is being overused and it is creating bacteria that are antibiotic resistant. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) met April 9-11 in Portland, Oregon to vote on the issues that are currently occurring in our organic community. In this article, Terry states, “The National Organic Standards Board, at meetings in Portland, opted not to allow the use of a type of tetracycline in organic apple and pear orchards starting Oct. 21, 2014” (Terry). Terry also mentions that, “Antibiotics in agriculture are mostly used on livestock, to promote growth and treat illness. Overuse, many scientists say, has led to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella and other bacteria, causing people to develop infections that can’t be treated with medication” (Terry).

Source 4:                                                                                                            

Waun, James. Tetracyclines. The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Vol. 6: T-Z, Organizations,

Glossary, Indexes. 4th ed. Detroit: Gale, 2011. p4288-4289. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale, Cengage

Learning.

This academic journal was extremely helpful because it helped me find out what the antibiotic Tetracycline actually does to help treat humans. It turned out that this antibiotic is extremely important for treating humans that have health problems such as gonorrhea, anthrax, Lyme disease, acne and urinary and respiratory infections. This proved to me that this antibiotic that is being used in the fruit trees shouldn’t be used anymore because the bacteria are becoming resistant to this antibiotic because of the fact that we are consuming fruits that contain this antibiotic.

This journal explains that the antibiotic Tetracycline is considered a “broad-spectrum” antibiotic which means that its role is to kill bacteria and prevent their spread. According to James Waun, “These drugs are used to treat infections in the lungs, urinary system, and skin (acne), and to prevent the spread of meningococcal meningitis” (Waun). The antibiotic Tetracycline, which is going to be prohibited by the use of farmers in October of 2013, is also typically used to treat a variety of infections such as, “Gonorrhea, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anthrax, Lyme disease, and the bacterium (Helicobacter pylori) that causes peptic ulcers” (Waun). As you can see, this antibiotic treats a variety of illnesses and using it on our fruit trees isn’t a good idea because by consuming these fruits, we are making our bodies immune to this drug. This is a major reason why the use of the antibiotic Tetracycline needs to be restricted. It is true that by using antibiotics, we are growing strong and healthy fruit trees, however; as a consequence, we are in turn affecting our health and putting our own lives at risk.

The Public Writing

Letter To The USDAJune 1, 2013

USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service

1400 Independence Avenue SW

Room 2077-South, Stop 0235

Washington, D.C. 20250-0235

Dear, USDA Fruit and Vegetable Program:

My name is Raafat Abdel Samad and I currently reside in Clackamas County in the state of Oregon. I am pleased to be informed that the new law that was passed in Portland, Oregon, regarding the restriction of the use of antibiotics on organic pear and apple trees is being effective October of 2013.  The use of these antibiotics has been allowed in organic apple and pear production for nearly 20 years and it is now about to finally change.

This is a very popular issue that is being talked a lot about in my community and it is extremely important that our organic produce does not contain antibiotics because of the many concerns that it brings to us. Some of these concerns include the issue that arises with the use of the antibiotic, Tetracycline. The use of the antibiotic Tetracycline in our organic pear and apple trees is causing a huge problem in our community. Certain types of bacteria are becoming antibiotic resistant and even more difficult to destroy especially when humans are given this specific type of antibiotic for treatment.

The antibiotic, Tetracycline is an important drug that is useful for a variety of treatments. The antibiotic Tetracycline is considered a “broad-spectrum” antibiotic and its main role is to kill bacteria and prevent their spread.  Tetracycline is an important antibiotic because it helps treat many diseases such as Lyme disease, Gonorrhea, anthrax, and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which causes peptic ulcers. This antibiotic is also used to treat respiratory and urinary infections as well as skin acne. As you can see, this antibiotic is used to treat a variety of illnesses and using it on our fruit trees isn’t a good idea because by consuming these fruits, we are making our bodies immune to this drug.

Another issue that arises with the use of antibiotics in fruit trees is that many organic consumers in my community are alarmed from the fact that antibiotics are being used in organic fruit trees. This is harming the true organic label as well as the trust of its consumers. These are many of the major reasons why the use of the antibiotic Tetracycline needs to be restricted in organic apple and pear production.

It is true that by using antibiotics, we are growing strong and healthy fruit trees, however; as a consequence, we are in turn affecting our health and putting our own lives at risk. This is why I believe that prohibiting the usage of Tetracycline in organic fruit trees is the best decision to take in order to maintain our overall health as human beings. I am sure that we can keep the trust in the organic label if we continue to restrict the use of antibiotics in our produce. Thank you for the time and effort to hear my concerns on this important matter.

Sincerely,

Raafat Abdel Samad

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5 comments

  1. Aaron Kaplan

    Rafaat,
    I’ve covered a lot of your discussion research and I have to say you did a great job with the Culminating Project as well. I agree with you, we face the same problems with bacteria soap and other products with their constant use makes us immune to the effects of these antibiotics. Healthy food fruit and apple trees do not translate into healthy humans. I also agree that for the product to be called organic, you shouldn’t be able to use Tetracycline on fruit.
    I’m not sure if you mean they’re going to restrict it on October 2013 on all peer and fruit trees or prohibit it use on organic fruit only. I like that we absolutely need to restrict pesticides on plants that we consume and a letter to the USDA that fruit doesn’t need to be pretty with its color and shapes , it is far more important that’s it s truly organic. Hopefully you can get a response to the USDA.. that would be so cool. This Project makes me want to get up and go to the Fresh Market and gets some organic fruit!

    • Raafat Abdel Samad

      A.J.,

      To answer your question, I believe that this new law is going to be effective only in organic pear and apple trees. I am not sure about non-organic produce, I believe that those regulations are not as strict as they are for certified organic produce. You should try to support organic produce that are from local farms! Thank you for your feedback!
      -Raafat

  2. Sharon Bartley

    Raafat.
    I really enjoyed working with you this term and find that a lot of your research sources were very helpful towards your project. You had a lot of strong sources with good information! I agree with you that for fruit or veggies to be called organic, Tetracycline shouldn’t be used. The process of treating trees with Tetracycline will not allow for future healthy humans. I am glad that you chose to write a letter to the USDA to help them see how people think about the current processes we have involving pesticides.
    We used to back in the day not have pesticides for our fruit and it wasn’t picture perfect just showing that we can have food remain purely organic. I try to buy local and support farmers who market organic food. I know this is hard because it is not always convenient, but every little bit helps. I hope you get a response from the USDA!
    Sharon

  3. Nicole Castro

    Raafat,
    First, your research and question is very interesting. I’ve never heard of this antibiotic or the Fire Blight Disease. I had no idea it was such a problem. Your third source was perhaps, in my opinion, the most helpful and the most intriguing. It was cool to hear what family farmers about it and get a different perspective. It also helped me understand about this much more.
    When you mentioned that this antibiotic actually helps people with certain diseases, it made me think about it in a different way. If this antibiotic is on fruits we’re consuming on a daily basis, soon the bacteria in our bodies are going to become immune to it and we’ll no longer be able to fight against it.
    I thought your letter was very powerful and showed you definitely did your research and knew what you were talking about. I was a little confused at first about the antibiotic and what it did, but you did a very good job explaining it throughout your research and stories. It really helped to get a farmer’s perspective and see how it effects people.
    Very good. I’m now aware of a problem I never knew existed.

  4. Pingback: Culminating Project Success Stories: Examples Here! |

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