By STEVE BROWN
PORTLAND — When the issue of tetracycline comes up at the National Organic Standards Board meeting in April, a Washington State University Extension researcher predicts there will be a “food fight.”
Approved use of the antibiotic, which has long been used to control fire blight in apple and pear orchards, is due to expire, or sunset, in 2014. The board’s Crops Subcommittee has proposed extending the sunset date to 2016.
The sunset had been postponed earlier to allow time for development of effective alternatives, sustainable agriculture specialist David Granatstein said.
“There are promising things in development, and one was registered last year,” he said. “But that’s not a guarantee it solves the problem.”
Any material needs to be rigorously tested, he said.
He called Blossom Protect “a huge breakthrough,” but it still needs an additional tool. A copper product would be likely be effective, but copper isn’t a registered product for organic agriculture.
“We will come up with (an effective) product, but by 2014?” he said. “My opinion is no.”
Granatstein said several environmental groups have started releasing statements to news media, but “‘Every apple has antibiotic’ is a flat-out lie,” he said. “It will get ugly. It will be a big food fight in Portland.”
The National Organic Coalition opposes the board's recommendation about the expiration "because it fails to acknowledge the serious health and environmental issues around antibiotics use in food and agriculture, and for several other reasons carefully outlined in our comments to the board," said Liana Hoodes, executive director of the coalition. "NOC is neutral on the topic of the extension of the expiration itself."
The meeting of the board, which occurs twice a year, provides a public forum for the organic community to weigh in on issues concerning organic production and processing.
The meeting will be the first for newly appointed environmentalist-farmer Francis Thicke. An organic farmer for more than 30 years, Thicke operates an 80-cow certified organic dairy in Fairfield, Iowa, and has been active in the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Leopold Group Sierra Club in Southeast Iowa, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission and Food Democracy Now.
Previously he served as a National Program Leader for Soil Science at the USDA Cooperative Extension Service and has worked in water quality and sustainable agriculture programs. He was named the 2012 Farmer of the Year by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service and is a current member of the Cornucopia Institute’s Policy Advisory Panel.
Thicke’s five-year term began Jan. 24, replacing Barry Flamm as one of the three environmentalists serving on the NOSB.
The upcoming meeting will take place at the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower, 921 Southwest Sixth Ave.
Deadline to sign up for public comments is March 19.
Details on the agenda as well as how to submit public or written comments are at www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ Click on National Organic Program.