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Daily News Blog

14
May

Take Action: Tell EPA and Congress to Ban Streptomycin and Tetracycline in Crop Production to Protect Medical Uses

(Beyond Pesticides, May 14, 2019) Your voice is needed to stop the use of two specific antibiotics, streptomycin and oxytetracycline, whose uses in agriculture are under EPA review. Thank you to those who, last week, told Congress and EPA to ban antibiotic use in agriculture – to help stop the worldwide crisis in bacterial resistance to antibiotics needed for medical purposes in life-threatening cases.

Tell EPA and Congress to Ban Streptomycin and Tetracycline in Agriculture

In spite of growing bacterial resistance, these two antibiotics are used for important medical purposes. Tetracycline is used for many common infections of the respiratory tract, sinuses, middle ear, and urinary tract, as well as for anthrax, plague, cholera, and Legionnaire’s disease, though it is used less frequently because of resistance. Streptomycin is used for tuberculosis, tularemia, plague, bacterial endocarditis, brucellosis, and other diseases, but its usefulness is limited by widespread resistance.

The unnecessary use of these antibiotics in agriculture must be stopped to protect their efficacy for medical purposes. The good news is that organic management practices do not use these antibiotics in crop production and therefore their use is unnecessary with smart sustainable farming practices.  The EPA docket is accepting comments on these two registrations through Friday, May 17. You can sign on to our petition by completing today’s action. If you’d like to take an extra step, please feel free to submit your own comment to EPA using the language from our petition.

Beyond Pesticides will submit the petition below to EPA. When you send your letter to Congress today, you are also signing on to our petition and adding strength to our public comment.

Re: Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0687
These comments are submitted on behalf of the undersigned citizens who are concerned about the antibiotic crisis.

EPA has failed to address new information in areas critical to public health and the environment relating to the proposed interim registrations for streptomycin and oxytetracycline. Therefore, registration of streptomycin and tetracycline should not continue.

Since the 2006 review, there has been a dramatic expansion of research into the microbiome, resulting in a new understanding of the critical roles of the microbiome in regulating such diverse processes as metabolism, immunity, and neurodevelopment. EPA does not assess risks due to disruption of the gastrointestinal microbiome. EPA also discounts risks to workers.

Crucially, use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline in agriculture contributes to the growing crisis in antibiotic resistance. Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, and the need for more expensive or hazardous medications. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of the use of antibiotics. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance.

Use of antibiotics on fruit trees contributes to resistance to the antibiotic in human pathogens. The human pathogenic organisms themselves do not need to be directly sprayed by the antibiotic because movement of genes in bacteria is not solely “vertical” –that is from parent to progeny– but can be “horizontal” –from one bacterial species to another. So, a pool of resistant soil bacteria or commensal gut bacteria can provide the genetic material for resistance in human pathogens. Spraying with these antibiotics can also promote multiple drug resistance –making other antibiotics ineffective as well.

When bacteria on the plants and in the soil are sprayed with an antibiotic, those with genes for resistance to the chemical increase compared to those susceptible to the antibiotic. Resistance genes exist for both streptomycin and tetracycline, and spraying with these chemicals increases the frequency of resistant genotypes by preferentially killing those susceptible to the antibiotic. Those genes may be taken up by other bacteria by a number of mechanisms, collectively known as “horizontal gene transfer.”

The guts of humans and other animals provide efficient incubators for antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance increases first in commensal bacteria—the bacteria that naturally live within our bodies—and may then be transferred to pathogens. Thus, the argument that human pathogens are not present in orchards sprayed with antibiotics is irrelevant to the actual development and spread of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The number of bacteria in the gut is large with a large gene pool offering many mechanisms of resistance, and every exposure to antibiotics offers new opportunities for selection for resistance.

Antibiotics used on animals and crops are washed into waterways, where they find bacteria-rich environment perfect for encouraging the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Other organisms are also at risk of undue hazards wrought by disruption of microbes key to metabolism, immunity and survival, which are not given adequate weight by EPA. In particular, EPA lacks data for honey bee adult acute oral and larval endpoints. In particular, the gut microbiome plays a critical role in health and immunity in adult honey bee workers. A recent study found that “pollen reverses decreased lifespan, altered nutritional metabolism, and suppressed immunity in honey bees (Apis mellifera) treated with antibiotics.” (Li, et al., 2019)

EPA must eliminate use of streptomycin and tetracycline in agriculture in order to protect human health and the environment.

Tell EPA and Congress to Ban Streptomycin and Tetracycline in Agriculture

U.S. Congress:

EPA is now considering the continued registration of two antibiotics in agriculture, streptomycin and oxytetracycline, and I am writing to ask you to voice your concern and request that these uses be stopped in an effort to avert the worldwide crisis in bacterial resistance to antibiotics that are needed for medical reasons in life-threatening cases. Since these antibiotics are not permitted in organic crop production, it is clear that we do not need them to grow food when smart sustainable farming practices are adopted. Please help save antibiotic use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline for their intended medical purposes.

Crucially, use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline in agriculture contributes to the growing crisis in antibiotic resistance. Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, resulting in longer-lasting infections, higher medical expenses, and the need for more expensive or hazardous medications. The development and spread of antibiotic resistance is the inevitable effect of the use of antibiotics. Bacteria evolve quickly, and antibiotics provide strong selection pressure for those strains with genes for resistance.

Use of antibiotics on fruit trees contributes to resistance to the antibiotic in human pathogens. The human pathogenic organisms themselves do not need to be directly sprayed by the antibiotic because movement of genes in bacteria is not solely “vertical” –that is from parent to progeny– but can be “horizontal” –from one bacterial species to another. So, a pool of resistant soil bacteria or commensal gut bacteria can provide the genetic material for resistance in human pathogens. Spraying with these antibiotics can also promote multiple drug resistance –making other antibiotics ineffective as well.

When bacteria on the plants and in the soil are sprayed with an antibiotic, those with genes for resistance to the chemical increase compared to those susceptible to the antibiotic. Resistance genes exist for both streptomycin and tetracycline, and spraying with these chemicals increases the frequency of resistant genotypes by preferentially killing those susceptible to the antibiotic. Those genes may be taken up by other bacteria by a number of mechanisms, collectively known as “horizontal gene transfer.”

Organic practices that prohibit streptomycin and oxytetracline use in crop production are now widely used in the U.S. and around the world. Whether in apple, peach, pear, or citrus production or to produce beans, celery, peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes, these antibiotics are not essential, given the ability to grow these crops productively and profitability under organic management practices. Farmers can take advantage of the assistance available to them to transition to organic practice. So, there is no reason not to take action on this critical public health matter.

Sincerely,

 

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