Something is happening to oranges. The solution may be worse than the problem and there's about to be a lot more solution.
Oranges are cast as the pinnacle of American wholesomeness. Orange juice is a marketing empire in its own right. The "OJ" industry has successfully made its product synonymous with life-giving vitamin C and a complete breakfast. But is that really the case?
The truth is, you don't know what they do to oranges.
You probably think I'm talking about swaths of pesticides being sprayed on orange groves, but no, no, no. That's only the tip of the iceberg.
Did you know that oranges are routinely sprayed with antibiotics?
Yeah, how odd, right?
The same antibiotics that are used to treat humans and animals for bacterial infections. We already ingest many antibiotics through our food if we are not careful, because of the antibiotics given to livestock, meat especially, but also eggs, farmed fish, milk, and cheese.
Now we ingest antibiotics from oranges?
Doesn't that make the problem of antibiotic resistance much, much worse?
Yes, it does. And the problem isn't just what we eat, it's also the runoff of antibiotics into our waterways.
But how did that happen?
America's orange groves have been facing a major problem with a widespread disease called citrus greening that has reportedly ripped through the citrus industry.
If you think that sounds bad, the Trump administration reportedly gave approval for an unprecedented amount of antibiotic use. Agricultural operations are allowed to spray two kinds of antibiotics on nearly a half-million acres of Florida citrus fruits.
Florida Phoenix Journal reports:
Federal officials are allowing greatly expanded use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline – antibiotics often used on people — as a pesticide on commercially grown citrus. Agricultural operations plan to use the antibiotic sprays to combat the widespread disease called citrus greening, which has devastated the citrus industry. The antibiotics won't cure the disease, and will have to be sprayed repeatedly over years just to keep the trees alive and producing fruit until they succumb to citrus greening.
Allowing so much antibiotic residue in Florida soils, runoff, and air is unprecedented. It's unclear how much of the antibiotics – sprayed on leaves and taken up into the plant's vascular system – will end up in fruit; it's never been sprayed on this scale before. Test results the citrus industry provided to federal officials reported low antibiotic residues. (source)
The EPA expressed concerns for potential harm to the environment, people, and wildlife, but ultimately decided the economic benefits "outweighed" the risks.
The USDA reasons that the amount of antibiotics people will ingest from citrus will be far less than those ingested during prescription use.
Despite the outcry from various environmental and antibiotics interest groups, Florida's Department of Agriculture and many citrus growers made the request to use more antibiotics.