In October 2014, organic regulations in the United States are set to change drastically in the fight against fire blight, a contagious disease that affects apple and pear trees. A regulatory ban established by the National Organic Standards Board will take effect against the antibiotic oxytetracycline to treat the potentially devastating disease. Although the government restriction keeps consumer interests in mind, concern is growing among organic producers about alternative treatment options.
Jessica Shade, director of science programs at the Organic Center, explained that organic farmers may not yet have the tools or knowledge necessary to drop oxytetracycline. “It’s one of the only things that has really been proven to prevent fire blight. It’s not the only material out there but it’s the one farmers trust the most,” Shade said. “When farmers are handling trees that they’ve invested thousands of dollars in, they really want to have something they know for sure is going to work when the lives of their trees are at stake. That’s why it has been so widely used up until this point.”
Concern about the pending ban does not, however, stem solely from the fact that farmers currently prefer the agent. As Shade explained, the problem is that many do not know what to do without it. “One of the researchers who’s working on this project, David Granatstein, did polls throughout Washington State of organic growers and came up with some really frightening numbers that 70-90% of all organic producers might drop out of organic production if there aren’t alternatives available for them,” Shade said. “It’s not worth it for them to gamble their really expensive trees on organic practices that may put the lives of their trees at risk.”
Via Kamoun Lab @ TSL