I’d like to know before I bite into a beautiful organic apple whether it has been sprayed with an antibiotic, wouldn’t you? It appears that organic fruit growers have been allowed to use the antibiotics streptomycin and tetracycline to prevent fire blight, a bacterial disease, on apples and pears since 1995. The two antibiotics are typically prescribed for human respiratory infections, ear infections and urinary tract infections, among other common ailments, and there is real concern that overuse will render them ineffective, a growing problem that has infectious disease doctors worried.
The dangers of coming down with an antibiotic-resistant superbug infection or destroying the beneficial bacteria in our bodies are enough to say “wait a minute!” How is it possible that organic food standards allow antibiotics to be used, especially on two fruits that are widely consumed by our children? The National Organics Standards Board, also concerned about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, has said that the antibiotics will not be allowed starting in 2014. Researchers at Oregon State University have researched alternatives to antibiotics in controlling fire blight. After testing and study, a protocol of copper spray, lime sulfur and fish oil (when sprayed at key growth periods) is just as effective as antibiotics in controlling the bacteria. Home gardeners have found white vinegar spray useful against the blight as well.
Not all varieties of apples and pears are susceptible to fire blight, so choosing the right variety will help to reduce exposure. It is best to avoid these common apple varieties: Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeygold and Jonathan. Choose instead (if you can find them): Delicious, Jonafree, Melrose, Northwestern Greening, Nova EasyGro, Prima, Priscilla, Quinte, RedFree, Sir Prize and Winesap. When purchasing pears, avoid Bartletts.
Additional information can be found at: