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Trump EPA Proposes Expanded Use of Antibiotic as Citrus Pesticide in Florida, California
The Trump administration has proposed to greatly expand spraying of streptomycin — an antibiotic often used with people — as a pesticide on citrus fruits like grapefruits, oranges and tangerines anywhere they are grown.

Earlier this month the Trump administration approved the use of another antibiotic, oxytetracycline, on the nation’s citrus groves. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has yet to fully analyze how these changes might affect wildlife, people and waterways.

The EPA’s latest proposed decision, issued late last week, paves the way for up to 480,000 acres of citrus trees in Florida to be treated with more than 650,000 pounds of streptomycin per year to combat citrus canker and citrus greening disease. Estimates also indicate 23,000 citrus acres are likely to be treated each year in California.

The EPA’s push to approve widespread use of the antibiotics as pesticides comes as the rise in human deaths due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria has spurred leading researchers to caution against expanding use of antibiotics like streptomycin, which is used to treat bacterial infections such as tuberculosis.
“Trump’s EPA is taking us in a dangerous new direction,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Researchers have been telling us for decades to curb the use of antibiotics in agriculture or risk losing them forever. The Trump administration has chosen to ignore the science and blindly sprint down a path that could dead-end at bacterial resistance.”

In addition to increasing the risk of antibiotic-resistance, the EPA’s own analysis also indicated that the widespread use of streptomycin could have negative long-term effects on all mammals that forage in treated fields, including chipmunks and rabbits. The EPA has not analyzed how this proposed decision could impact endangered and threatened species that forage or nest in these citrus groves, or rely on waterways contaminated by the antibiotic.

As was the case with oxytetracycline, the EPA’s proposed approval comes despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration expressing numerous concerns about the risks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant organisms each year, leading to an estimated 23,000 deaths.

Due to rising consumer outcry and warnings from leading researchers, antibiotic use has fallen in animals on factory farms.

“The Trump EPA is once again bowing to the pesticide industry’s wishes, with no regard for the consequences to human health, wildlife or the environment,” said Donley. “Spraying antibiotics on fruit to fight citrus greening is a short-term fix with dangerous, long-term consequences.”

Both the European Union and Brazil have banned the use of oxytetracycline and streptomycin for use as a pesticide on agricultural plants.
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