Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the Trump Administration, approved the use of the antibiotic oxytetracycline on citrus fruits grown in the U.S. The EPA’s decision came just days after the agency approved residues of the antibiotic on fruit. According to the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, the decision could pave the way for up to 480,000 acres of citrus groves here in Florida to be treated with up to 388,000 pounds of oxytetracycline per year, as a way to combat diseases like citrus canker and citrus greening.
Since greening, or HLB, was first discovered in Florida in 2005, it’s spread to every citrus-growing region of the state. The disease, spread by an invasive insect, ruins the fruit and eventually kills the tree. It’s resulted in cumulative losses to Florida’s citrus industry into the billions of dollars.
The EPA’s approval comes despite concerns expressed by both CDC and FDA officials, given the already growing prevalence of antibiotic resistant infections. We're taking a closer look at the issue, the efficacy of oxytetracycline in combating citrus disease, and potential risks to environmental and human health with a panel of guests. We're joined by Dr. Nathan Donley, he's a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity; Dr. Mary Beth Saunders, she's an infectious disease expert at Lee Health; and Rick Dantzler, he’s the Chief Operating Officer of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation. Dantzler is a former state lawmaker, having served in both the Florida House and Senate. He’s also served as Florida’s Executive Director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency.