Apple and pear trees are apparently susceptible to an infection called fire blight which is capable of devastating entire orchards. To combat this, organic farms received an exemption which allowed them to use antibiotics (Streptomycin and Oxytetracycline) to combat the disease. This issue is in the news now, because the exemption is set to expire in 2014. It was hoped that by now other methods would have become available to treat this problem so that antibiotics would no longer be needed. While some progress has been made, more work is required before the use of antibiotics can be completely discontinued.
So, given the controversy over labeling and the consumers’ “right to know” it is a little disconcerting to find that this organic produce has no label disclosing antibiotic use. Even more interesting was the rationale offered for the use of antibiotics: they apparently leave little residue, not enough to be harmful to consumers, anyway. The same logic offered for conventional produce would be vilified as a conspiracy to “poison” consumers.
Does this mean we should support the continued use of antibiotics? Absolutely not. In fact, the article mentions that in addition to antibiotics better cultivation practices are being used to keep the healthy and this is the way to go:make use of all the knowledge and techniques that are available to achieve the common good.