Legal Arguments Start Over Streptomycin in Citrus

Josh McGill Legal, Pesticides

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear oral arguments in late January challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of the antibiotic streptomycin as a pesticide on citrus crops. The lawsuit, brought by farmworker and public-interest groups, argues the use of streptomycin on citrus crops is unlawful under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki

Streptomycin is used to treat illnesses ranging from tuberculosis to urinary tract infections. Environmental law organization Earthjustice says the misuse of medically important antibiotics has contributed to increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The widespread uses of streptomycin can also cause harmful, long-term effects on endangered species like Florida panthers as well as bee and butterfly pollinators, Earthjustice added.

According to Earthjustice, more than 650,000 pounds of the antibiotic are expected to be used on citrus crops in Florida and California.

Petitioners in the case include Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and U.S. Public Interest Research Group, represented by NRDC; Beyond Pesticides; Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida; Farmworker Association of Florida; Farmworker Justice and Migrant Clinicians Network, represented by Earthjustice; and the Center for Biological Diversity. The petitioners sued EPA for approving streptomycin use on citrus trees to prevent or treat HLB or citrus canker.

“The use of streptomycin as a pesticide continues to be an ongoing threat to the health and safety of our farmworkers, who are at the frontlines of feeding our nation,” said Jeannie Economos with Farmworker Association of Florida. “We’re urging swift resolution of this case and an end to the misuse of medically important antibiotics within our food systems. Every day of delay means more farmworkers are exposed, putting themselves and their families at risk.”

“Medically important antibiotics should be reserved for a doctor’s toolkit, not agricultural fields,” added Allison Johnson with NRDC. “Misuse and overuse of these precious medicines are known to exacerbate the growing health threat posed by antibiotic-resistant infections. There are safer alternatives for addressing pest pressures in food production — including organic farming — that don’t sacrifice our health or the planet’s.”

Learn more about the lawsuit here.

Source: Earthjustice

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