Migrant Clinicians Network et al. v. U.S. EPA et al. (Streptomycin)

Case Status


Last Update

A farmworker picks oranges in Arcadia, Florida.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In January 2021, during President Trump’s final days in office, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved new uses of a medically important antibiotic, streptomycin, on citrus crops. Registering streptomycin for use as a pesticide increases the risk of antibiotic resistance and threatens the health of farmworkers, endangered species, and pollinators. So on March 25, 2021, a coalition of public interest groups—including NRDC and farmworker, health justice, and conservation organizations—sued the EPA.

Streptomycin is used to treat common illnesses, such as tuberculosis and urinary tract infections, and it is part of a family of antibiotics considered “critically” important by the World Health Organization (WHO). Streptomycin’s registration opens the door for the largest-ever use of a medically important antibiotic in plant agriculture—including on 650,000 acres of citrus in California and Florida—despite the lack of proven efficacy for combating the citrus greening disease and citrus canker disease that it’s intended to target.

Antibiotics are essential to human medicine, but their overuse in agriculture has contributed to the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO both consider the increase of antibiotic resistance to be one of the top concerns for public health.

The EPA failed to ensure that approved uses of streptomycin as a pesticide would not cause unreasonable harm to human health or the environment, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The agency also violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by failing to adequately assess impacts to endangered species.

In December 2023, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion concluding that the agency had violated both FIFRA and the ESA. To remedy the violations, the court vacated the EPA’s unlawful approvals of streptomycin for use as a pesticide on citrus. This means that streptomycin may no longer be lawfully sold or distributed for this purpose.

Through this lawsuit, NRDC and our partners—Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida (ECOSWF), Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker Justice, Migrant Clinicians Network, and U.S. PIRG, and represented by in-house counsel and Earthjustice—have helped to protect public health by ensuring that crucial antibiotics will be effective when we need them most.

Related Content