Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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The NOSB's 'lose-lose' decision The loss of oxytetracycline for organic production comes before alternative strategies are in place, industry representatives say. by Geraldine Warner decision by the National Organic Standards Board not to extend use of a key antibiotic to control fireblight in organic fruit production represents a loss for both producers and consumers, says Harold Austin, an NOSB board member. The antibiotic oxytetracyline will no longer be approved for use on organic apples or pears after October 21, 2014. Fireblight is a highly contagious bacterial disease that kills tree limbs, turning them brown as if scorched by fire. If uncontrolled, the disease can kill trees. At their meeting in Portland, Oregon, in early April, board members considered a petition from the tree fruit industry to extend its use for another two years. Nine of the 15 board members voted in favor—one short of the twothirds majority needed. "I was extremely disappointed that the board has failed the organic community," Austin told Good Fruit Grower after the meeting. "I felt we had a great opportunity to bring all of the stakeholders—consumers, environmentalists, and growers—together to find a point of commonality we could agree on." Austin, who is director of orchard administration for Zirkle Fruit Company, Selah, Washington, said the main concern of consumer advocates, who were well represented at the meeting, seemed to be —Harold Austin the potential for the use of antibiotics in tree fruit production to increase resistance to antibiotics in humans. "I really felt that we let down the organic consumers because, at some point of time, this is going to take organic fruit out of production and off the shelves," he said. Growers will be able to use the antibiotic for the next two growing seasons but will need alternatives in 2015. The only other antibiotic available for use in tree fruit production, streptomycin, comes up for review at the NOSB's meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, this fall, and Austin said there's no reason to think the outcome will be different. Before the Portland meeting, the NOSB had received 100,000 written comments from consumers and advocacy groups who were opposed to the extension versus a couple of hundred of comments from people in favor, he estimated. "We're all in this to see that the organic industry is there long-term." Orchestrated Dr. Deborah Carter, technical issues manager at the Northwest Horticultural Council, who also attended the meeting, said consumer advocate groups orchestrated opposition to the petition. For example, the Organic Consumers Association states on its Web site: "You may not be aware of it, but every time you bite into that crisp, organic apple or succulent, organic pear, you could be exposing yourself to two different antibiotic drugs that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Standards Board has quietly allowed to be used on these two fruits since the organic program's inception back in the 1990s." David Granatstein, Washington State University sustainable agriculture specialist, said the implication that the antibiotics are on all apples and pears is blatantly untrue. First, it would be fairly unusual for a grower to use both antibiotics, and statistics show that over the past decade only about 10 percent of the apple acreage in the country was treated with an antibiotic at all. The materials are usually applied during bloom—before there are fruit on the trees—and they break down quickly in the environment. 6 May 15, 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER

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