Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services wants to spray antibiotics on citrus groves to combat greening disease, and is applying for an exemption with the EPA. Similar to the fight of routine antibiotic use in animal agriculture, there’s concern over human antibiotics treating crop disease.
Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has through the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) applied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to spray 2.23 million pounds of human antibiotics, treating Citrus Greening disease. There’s opposition to this proposal for the EPA to deny the request.
Concern for Citrus Growers
From 2000-2014, citrus production has decreased 58 percent. Citrus growers are concerned for the future of the crop. The antibiotics are used to treat huanglongbing (HLB) and more commonly called citrus greening. It’s a bacterial infection transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid.
Impacts of Human Antibiotic Use for Crop Disease
1. Ultimate concern for us:
Use of human antibiotics causing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
They would both use many times more antibiotics than are used in human medicine. One set of comments to the EPA, made by the nonprofit coalition Keep Antibiotics Working, estimates the state is asking to use four times as much oxytetracycline and 36 times as much streptomycin as are used in U.S. patients each year. Advocates worry that such high doses may increase the risk that the drugs will stop working in humans—the fear that lies behind objections to livestock antibiotics.
2. Other Environmental Concerns:
-Citrus greening disease becoming resistant.
And note, oxytetracycline and streptomycin will not actually cure the bacterial infection, but will give longer life to the trees and increase citrus production.
Want to learn more about using human antibiotics on orange trees?
Here’s further reading:
National Geographic: The Plate
Citrus Greening: Huanglongbing from University of Florida/IFAS Citrus Extension
Emergency Exemptions Request to the EPA; Applications: Oxytetracycline and Streptomycin
How Long Can Florida’s Citrus Industry Survive? from NPR