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Sat May 18, 2019, 11:50 AM

Trump EPA approves expanded use of antibiotics in cash crops, despite objections from CDC and FDA

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/health/antibiotics-oranges-florida.html

Citrus Farmers Facing Deadly Bacteria Turn to Antibiotics, Alarming Health Officials
In its decision to approve two drugs for orange and grapefruit trees, the E.P.A. largely ignored objections from the C.D.C. and the F.D.A., which fear that expanding their use in cash crops could fuel antibiotic resistance in humans.
By Andrew Jacobs
May 17, 2019

ZOLFO SPRINGS, Fla. — A pernicious disease is eating away at Roy Petteway’s orange trees. The bacterial infection, transmitted by a tiny winged insect from China, has evaded all efforts to contain it, decimating Florida’s citrus industry and forcing scores of growers out of business.

In a last-ditch attempt to slow the infection, Mr. Petteway revved up his industrial sprayer one recent afternoon and doused the trees with a novel pesticide: antibiotics used to treat syphilis, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections and a number of other illnesses in humans.

“These bactericides give us hope,” said Mr. Petteway’s son, R. Roy, 33, as he watched his father treat the family’s trees, some of them 50 years old. “Because right now, it’s like we’re doing the doggy paddle without a life preserver and swallowing water.”

Since 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency has allowed Florida citrus farmers to use the drugs, streptomycin and oxytetracycline, on an emergency basis, but the agency is now significantly expanding their permitted use across 764,000 acres in California, Texas and other citrus-producing states. The agency approved the expanded use despite strenuous objections from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warn that the heavy use of antimicrobial drugs in agriculture could spur germs to mutate so they become resistant to the drugs, threatening the lives of millions of people.

The E.P.A. has proposed allowing as much as 650,000 pounds of streptomycin to be sprayed on citrus crops each year. By comparison, Americans annually use 14,000 pounds of aminoglycosides, the class of antibiotics that includes streptomycin.


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