[nafex] Antibiotics for Organic Apples

Michael Dossett phainopepla at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 23 14:51:16 EDT 2013

If only it was so simple.  Unfortunately, the market dictates for most growers what varieties must be grown and what the final price point will be in order to be able to make a profit.  Lower yields and/or resistant varieties that most consumers have never heard of aren't generally part of this equation, except for those filling a niche and/or selling in smaller markets where these factors are less of a barrier.  
As a fruit breeder myself, I am focusing on improving disease resistance, but I also must remind myself of something I was once told, which is that, "Generally speaking, with very few exceptions, disease resistance is not something that growers are looking for in new varieties.  If there is something they can do culturally to control disease, they will.  Really what it is all about at the end of the day is yield and quality."  There are several examples out there where industries would collapse if they didn't have specific resistance in their varieties, but it is the exception rather than the rule.  This is a sobering thought for someone wanting to develop disease resistant varieties, because most of the resistance out there is in poorly adapted germplasm or germplasm which lacks the yield and quality people are looking for.  At the same time, in order for a new variety to be successful and become adopted, you have to keep up with the advances in
 quality made by other breeders releasing varieties without paying special attention to those diseases, making it an even longer effort to combine these.  Until significant funding is in place for an extended period to support breeding programs specifically with the goal of improved disease resistance, the market will dictate that the majority of breeders will ignore diseases for which there are cultural (i.e. spray) fixes in favor of those with yield and quality, because those are the varieties that will sell the most plants and those are the ones that are going to generate the most revenue through royalties to support further breeding.  As the model around the world has shifted further and further away from public support for breeding programs in favor of privately-funded proprietary programs, this is becoming even more of a challenge.  Today, even our "public" programs are under enormous financial pressure and breeders looking to keep their jobs
 are well aware that they will be looked upon more favorably by their program administrators for developing varieties that sell lots of plants, and/or generate lots of revenue.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't all strive to reduce/eliminate the use of antibiotics in growing apples and pears, but I think we need investments that will develop real alternatives that will be available to all growers and which are just as efficacious and less expensive.  Changing varieties in the current system may solve the fireblight problem, but until the whole system changes with new priorities and better educated consumers, it isn't a viable alternative for most commercial-scale growers.

Michael Dossett
Mission, British Columbia
phainopepla at yahoo.com

 From: Anton Callaway <marillen at earthlink.net>
To: nafex mailing list at ibiblio <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org> 
Sent: Friday, April 19, 2013 3:32 PM
Subject: Re: [nafex] Antibiotics for Organic Apples

Certain antibiotics are already approved for use on pears and apples labelled as USDA Organic.  This was the status quo.  That status is up for renewal in 2014.

I was shocked as well when I read about it a few months ago in a Fruit Growers News article.

I'm also a little surprised at those who say antibiotics are necessary to grow even organic apples and pears.  Lots of us NAFEXers have been growing apples and pears without using antibiotics.  I think a more accurate assertion would be something like, "Antibiotics are needed to grow certain well-known, but fireblight-susceptible, apple and pear cultivars on a commercial scale.

North Carolina (fireblight central)

-----Original Message-----
>From: Doreen Howard <gardendiva at charter.net>
>Sent: Apr 11, 2013 9:15 PM
>To: nafex mailing list at ibiblio <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
>Subject: [nafex] Antibiotics for Organic Apples
>The FDA is contemplating the inclusion of antibiotics in organic apples and pears to counter fireblight!
>Doreen Howard
>nafex mailing list 
>nafex at lists.ibiblio.org
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