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Why Your Oranges Are Covered With Antibiotics

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Oranges are one of the most popular fruits in the U.S., but be aware that soon you may be sinking your teeth into an orange doused in antibiotics such as streptomycin and oxytetracycline, medications that are medically important to humans.

In December 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the “maximum level” of oxytetracycline for use in citrus fruits1 — just days after approving residues of the drug on fruit.2

The drug acts as a pesticide and is intended to suppress citrus greening disease, a devastating plant condition that’s been damaging citrus crops in Florida and other states. It’s unclear how much of the drugs will migrate to the orange flesh, and what the implications will be for the person who eats them, but on a larger scale it’s clear that spraying antibiotics freely into the environment on this scale is a recipe for disaster.

What Is Citrus Greening?

Citrus greening, also known as huanglongbing (HLB) or yellow dragon disease, is one of the “most serious citrus plant diseases in the world,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).3 It’s spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, which feed on the trees and can infect them with the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, which causes the disease.

Trees affected by citrus greening lose the ability to take in nutrients, causing problems with growth, resulting in smaller fruit, sour fruit and fewer fruits. Oranges, for instance, may remain green even when they’re ripe, and the fruit may be misshapen, bitter and hard. Leaves may become mottled and trees sparsely foliated.

Once infected, there’s no cure for citrus greening and most trees die within a few years. In the U.S., citrus production during the 2017 to 2018 season was expected to fall 24 percent to 3.5 million tons due in part to unfavorable weather, but also because citrus greening disease caused fruit in Florida to drop before it was ripe.4

Citrus growers are understandably desperately searching for a solution, which landed the trees on antibiotics. In 2015, Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services asked the EPA for permission to spray 2.23 million pounds of antibiotics on orange groves to protect against the disease.5 Further, as reported by the Center for Biological Diversity:6

“In 2016 the EPA approved an emergency use of up to 1.6 million pounds of oxytetracycline and streptomycin, another medically important antibiotic, on citrus trees in Florida. This was followed by another emergency approval in 2017 for Florida, and for Florida and California in 2018.”

Antibiotics provide only a temporary band-aid, however, and won’t cure the disease. Instead, the antibiotics merely keep the trees alive and producing fruit a little bit longer, provided they’re repeatedly sprayed. Ultimately, even the antibiotic-treated trees will succumb to citrus greening.

“We’re using more of these antibiotics on fruit trees than to treat disease in humans,” Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center, said in a news release. “Citrus greening disease is a serious issue, but using important antibiotics with limited effectiveness against the disease isn’t the solution.”7

Streptomycin Use May Also Be Expanded on Citrus Groves

The EPA proposed to expand the use of another antibiotic, streptomycin, to treat citrus greening disease and citrus canker, a bacterial disease that causes lesions on the fruit, leaves and stems along with premature leaf and fruit drop.

If approved, the proposal could mean more than 650,000 pounds of streptomycin could be applied to up to 480,000 acres of citrus trees in Florida each year, along with another 23,000 acres of citrus trees in California.8

The use of both oxytetracycline and streptomycin as pesticides on agricultural plants is banned in the European Union and Brazil, amid rising concerns over antibiotic resistance.

“This short-term agricultural fix is a horrible precedent that ignores the dangerous, long-term implications of overusing these medically important antibiotics,” Donley said. “The more we use these medicines in agriculture, the more likely they’ll lose their effectiveness when people fall desperately ill.”9

Oxytetracycline, for instance, is commonly used to treat respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia, along with some sexually transmitted infections. Streptomycin is typically used for serious bacterial infections for which other medicines may not work, such as tuberculosis.

“The … EPA is once again bowing to the pesticide industry’s wishes, with no regard for the consequences to human health, wildlife or the environment,” Donley said.10

Spraying Citrus Groves With Pesticides Could Accelerate Antibiotic Resistance, Harm Wildlife

Antibiotics have been sprayed on fruit orchards for years (streptomycin is registered for use on peaches, pears and apples, for instance), but at levels far lower than those currently approved.11

The nonprofit group Keep Antibiotics Working estimated that the state of Florida could end up using 36 times more streptomycin and four times more oxytetracycline on citrus trees than are used in Americans in a year. Steve Roach, food safety program director for the Food Animal Concerns Trust, told National Geographic:12

“Obviously this is a big problem for the citrus industry. But we are really concerned that they are asking to adopt routine antibiotic use, where they will pretty much have to be regularly spraying the whole industry. These are exactly the conditions we have been fighting against in animal agriculture: industrywide use of antibiotics on a regular basis.”

The antibiotics will also collect in soil and run off into surrounding waterways, and both the EPA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have expressed concerns about the potential risks, the Center for Biological Diversity reported, adding:13

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.”

Antibiotic Resistant Disease Is a Major Public Health Threat

In the U.S., according to CDC data, every year at least 2 million Americans acquire drug-resistant infections and 23,000 die as a result. Many others die from conditions that were complicated by antibiotic-resistant infections.14 Worldwide, 700,000 people die every year due to antibiotic-resistant disease, and it’s estimated that more people will be affected by it than cancer by 2050.15

Agriculture remains a driving force behind the surge in antibiotic-resistant disease, although typically this is talked about in regard to livestock living on concentrated animal feeding operations, rather than citrus groves.

In the former case, in November 2017 the World Health Organization (WHO) called on farmers and the food industry to stop the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention in healthy animals. WHO explained, “The new … recommendations aim to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics that are important for human medicine by reducing their unnecessary use in animals.”16

They cited a 2017 study published in The Lancet Planetary Health, which found reducing antibiotic use in food-producing animals reduced antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the animals by up to 39 percent and may similarly reduce such bacteria in humans, particularly those who are directly exposed to food-producing animals.17

As it stands, the excessive use of antibiotics among CAFO animals has turned them into veritable “disease factories”18 and, in the U.S., when the FDA tests raw supermarket chicken, they routinely find antibiotic-resistant bacteria to be present.19

According to WHO, use of all classes of medically important antibiotics should be reduced in food-producing animals, while their use for growth promotion and disease prevention without diagnosed illness should be completely restricted. Allowing their use for widespread spraying on citrus trees, then, appears to contradict WHO’s goals in combating the spread of antibiotic resistant disease.

What’s at Stake if Antibiotic Resistance Spreads?

Already, tens of thousands of Americans may be vulnerable to life-threatening infections following surgery or chemotherapy due to antibiotic resistance. One study estimated that up to 50 percent of pathogens that cause surgical site infections, and 25 percent of those that cause infections following chemotherapy, are already resistant to common antibiotics.20

If antibiotic effectiveness drops by even another 10 percent, it could result in 40,000 more infections and 2,100 additional deaths following surgery and chemotherapy each year.

A 30 percent drop in effectiveness could mean another 120,000 infections and 6,300 deaths annually, the researchers concluded.21 Worse still, if antibiotic effectiveness declines by 70 percent, the U.S. could see 280,000 more infections and 15,000 more deaths as a result.

When spraying citrus with antibiotics, there’s also a risk that citrus greening disease could become resistant as well. To combat this, the industry has suggested cycling between oxytetracycline and streptomycin, but in a letter to the EPA, Keep Antibiotics Working suggests it’s not nearly this simple:22

“Florida makes the unsubstantiated claim that cycling between the two antibiotics streptomycin and oxytetracycline will ‘minimize any selection pressure’ and therefore can be considered ‘an effective resistance management program’ that will not only reduce resistance in the target organism but ‘should also help in preventing development of resistance in nontarget bacteria as well.’

The use of cycling of antibiotics as proposed here for the management of resistance is highly controversial even in human medicine and there is no clear evidence that it can be considered ‘an effective resistance management program.’”

What’s more, research from University of Canterbury researchers revealed that agrichemicals and antibiotics in combination increase the evolution of antibiotic resistance. In fact, bacteria may develop antibiotic resistance up to 100,000 times faster when they’re exposed to certain herbicides in the environment.23

The results suggest that herbicides enhance the ability of antibiotics to become antibiotic resistance and that such resistance may be acquired at rates much faster than those predicted in laboratory conditions. Previously, research found that commonly used herbicides promote antibiotic resistance by priming pathogens to more readily become resistant to antibiotics.24

Using antibiotics in another agricultural setting, where other agricultural chemicals are also being used, therefore has the potential to make antibiotic resistance exponentially worse — not to mention being harmful to wildlife and pollinating insects.

A Good Reason to Choose Organic Oranges

Typically, fruits with a thick peel, which you intend to remove before eating, are not the top priority for buying organic. However, it’s unknown whether agricultural antibiotics can be taken into the flesh of the fruit, so it’s better off to choose organic.

Even putting the health risks of consuming antibiotic residues aside, choosing organic means you’re not supporting the agricultural spraying of antibiotics that will only further the spread of antibiotic disease. It also means you’ll avoid exposure to citrus red No. 2, a toxic artificial dye that is sometimes sprayed on Florida oranges.

As Donley stated, the potential risks of this plan outweigh the benefits. “Our issue is that these drugs are a really lousy answer to a complex problem … This is just another example of the pesticide office of the EPA approving a pesticide that’s not been studied well enough for the agency to make a competent decision on its safety.”25

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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