EPA Sued Over Streptomycin in Citrus

Ernie NeffBactericides

A coalition of groups on March 25 sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approving spraying of streptomycin on citrus trees to prevent or treat HLB or citrus canker. The groups claimed that the practice of spraying antibiotics on trees has been ineffective in combating the diseases and can drive antibiotic resistance in bacteria, which can threaten human health.

The lawsuit was filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Migrant Clinicians Network, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and United States Public Interest Research Group.

The EPA failed to ensure that the approved uses of streptomycin as a pesticide would not cause unreasonable harm to human health or the environment and failed to adequately assess impacts to endangered species, according to the lawsuit.

“Farmworkers are already exposed to a mix of toxic pesticides in the course of their daily work,” said Jeannie Economos, pesticide safety and environmental health project coordinator at Farmworker Association of Florida. “It is unconscionable for EPA to use farmworkers as guinea pigs when it comes to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that risks the health of them and their children.”

“Allowing life-saving antibiotics to be used as pesticides is an unnecessary and dangerous practice that fuels a growing public health epidemic: antibiotic resistance,” said Allison Johnson, sustainable food policy advocate at NRDC. “The EPA should be championing agricultural practices that protect farm workers and their communities, public health and the environment — like building healthy soil and diversified farming — not increasing the use of dangerous pesticides.” 

A media release stated that “EPA’s decision greenlights the use of more than 650,000 pounds of streptomycin on citrus crops in Florida and California. By contrast, the United States currently uses only about 14,000 pounds of aminoglycosides, the antibiotic class that includes streptomycin, for medical purposes each year.”

Learn more from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences about the use of streptomycin and other antibiotics in citrus.

Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

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