Government moves to protect Swiss orchards

The Federal Agriculture Office is to allow fruit farmers to use a controversial antibiotic to protect orchards against fireblight.

This content was published on January 29, 2008 - 12:01

In a statement on Tuesday, it said the use of streptomycin would be strictly controlled. The antibiotic is only authorised for use during the main period of infection, the spring.

Streptomycin, which is sprayed on trees, is opposed by environmentalists.

The Agriculture Office said that application may only take place in approved areas and that farmers may spray no area more than three times. Authorities had previously banned the chemical over concern it would enter the food supply.

The organic farming organisation, Bio Suisse, opposes the decision and states that resources should be directed towards cultivating trees that are more resistant.

Last year, farmers in Switzerland lost thousands of trees to fireblight. The authorities subsidised them to the tune of SFr30 million ($27.5 million).

The bacterial disease hits apple and pear orchards, and affected trees have to be uprooted and burned.

Streptomycin is permitted in Germany and Austria, and has been used in the United States since 1955.

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