Hidden Dangers: Antibiotics Used on Organic Fruit Trees
Wow, I’m actually a bit speechless right now. Thank you to Fooducate for posting about the disgusting truths about some organic produce on Facebook. You’ve inspired me to write this disgruntled post.
We know that antibiotics are given to non-organic livestock to prevent disease and encourage growth.
But, did you know that organic apples and pears trees are also treated with antibiotics? It appears that all other organic and conventional fruit bearing trees are prohibited from antibiotic treatment. From what I’ve read USDA certified organic apple and pear trees as well as conventional livestock are the only food items treated with antibiotics.
We assume organic produce is healthy because it is grown using biological, physical or mechanical methods or natural controls instead of chemically processed methods. However, in this August 2, 2012 press release from the USDA, we clearly see there is a loophole.
“While organic principles require the use of biological, physical or mechanical methods or natural controls to prevent or control crop pests, weeds, and diseases, the organic regulations permit use of carefully evaluated inputs when natural methods are insufficient to address critical issues of production.”
“Evaluted Imputs?” What in the world does that mean? Sounds a little suspicious to me. And that’s because it is. Take a look at this, also from the same press release.
“Tetracycline has been allowed in organic crop production since 2002 solely to control fire blight, a bacterial disease affecting large populations of apples and pears. Given the high susceptibility of the crops to the disease, and in light of tetracycline’s proven effectiveness to treat it, the National Organic Standards Board recommended that the substance continue to be allowed for a period. However, the expiration date should encourage the development of options for biological controls and also help cultivate fire blight-resistant apple and pear varieties.”
That’s great that they are encouraging organic farms to move away from the use of tetracycline, but that doesn’t help us today. I’m not sure about you, but my kids eat boat loads of organic apples and pears. I’m cringing now at the thought of how much tetracycline they’ve probably consumed. And it turns out streptomycin, another antibiotic, is also used. Great! And this is not new information. These antibiotics have been approved for use on organic apple and pear trees for years!
Just what is tetracycline you ask? Wikipedia defines it as “a broad-spectrum polyketide antibiotic produced by the Streptomyces genus of Actinobacteria, indicated for use against many bacterial infections. It is a protein synthesis inhibitor.” In 2010, Tetracycline was added to the FDA’s list of medications under investigation for potential safety issues. Some of the potential side effects per Wikipedia are:
- **Should be avoided during pregnancy, as it may affect bone growth of the fetus
- Caution should be exercised in long-term use with breastfeeding. Short-term use is safe.
- Can stain developing teeth (even when taken by the mother during pregnancy)
- Can cause permanent teeth discoloration (yellow-gray-brown); infancy and childhood to eight years old
- Skin photo-sensitivity; exposure to the sun or intense light is not recommended
- Drug-induced lupus, and hepatitis
- Can induce microvesicular fatty liver
- Can cause breathing complications as well as anaphylactic shock in some individuals
Also, since tetracycline and streptomycin are antibiotics, over exposure in theory can cause a yeast overgrowth in the body (if not balanced with probiotics), leading to many, many additional health issues, possibly including eczema and food sensitivities and intolerances to yeast containing foods. And a big one – we all know that over exposure to antibiotics can lead to a resistance to some strains, leaving us unable to protect and heal our bodies when we actually may need a dose of antibiotics. Yikes!
An eczema connection?
And specifically important to the eczema community is this…according to Wikipedia, overuse of tetracycline has led to a resistance to staph infections!
“Resistance amongst Staphylococcus spp., Streptococcus spp., Neisseria gonorrhoeae, anaerobes, members of the Enterobacteriaceae and several other previously sensitive organisms is now quite common.”
We know that those with eczema are especially prone to staph infections. Is it really possible that eating USDA certified organic apples and pears could possibly lead to the body’s inability to fight off staph infections? If the trees are treated with antibiotics, how much antibiotics can actually leech into the soil and into the fruit? I’m probably being over dramatic, in fact I know I am. And I’m sure the quantities of tetracycline and streptomycin are rather small and possibly insignificant all together….in moderation. But take our children’s small, frail bodies, and add an apple and pear every day. If antibiotics leech into the fruit, could the build-up of tetracycline really harm them over time?
What are we to do?
The good news. Apparently there are some apple and pear trees that are naturally resistant to fire blight, so it would seem these would be safest to eat. Whatever you do, definitely don’t stop eating apples or pears. Enjoy more from the resistant lists and less (or none if you’re able) from the non-resistant list. And keep in mind, thankfully organic farmers avoid treating the trees with antibiotics at all costs, but occasionally treatment is necessary.
Apple Trees Highly Resistant
- Northwestern Greening
- Nova EasyGro
- Sir Prize
Apple Trees Resistant
- Red Delicious
- Northern Spy
Apple Trees Without Resistance (most likely to be treated with antibiotics)
- Golden Delicious
- Granny Smith
- Pink Lady
- Rome Beauty
- Yellow Transparent
Pear Trees Highly Resistant
- Old Home
Pear Trees Resistant
Pear Trees Without Resistance (most likely to be treated with antibiotics)
- Clapp’s Favorite
We know organic apple and pear trees are occasionally treated with tetracycline and streptomycin. So, what are conventional apples and pears treated with I wonder? I’m sure it’s something equally nasty or possibly worse. So, we’ll stick with organic for now as the benefits outweigh the negatives in my mind.
If you’re still looking for more information, check out this very informative article from BeyondPesticides.org.