(Beyond Pesticides, November 11, 2011) The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will meet this month to decide on a range of issues regarding the future of organic food and farming in the U.S. The NOSB will vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming after considering input from the public. Your participation is vital to this process. Public input can be highly influential to the development of organic standards, as farmers and consumers relay their ideas to the board for consideration, but only if you speak up. The public comment period closes after this Sunday, November 13. Take Action.
There is a wide range of issues that the board is considering for this meeting including pest control materials, inputs in processed food, internal board procedures, and many others. You can access background on these issues on our Keeping Organic Strong webpage and then send comments into USDA by the end of Sunday, November 13. It’s easy.
Submit your comments using this form. This will bring you to a form in which to fill out your personal information and type your comment. When filling out your personal information, you only need to fill in the fields with a blue asterisk next to the label. Other fields, such as Submitter’s Representative and Government Agency should be left blank. Under Organization Name, enter the name of the group you are representing or “None” or “Private Citizen” if you are representing only yourself. You may then type your comment or upload it as a separate file. Finish by clicking the orange Submit button.
We recommend using these guidelines and referring back to the organic law in order to organize your thoughts in your comments. As our comments demonstrate, this will help to clearly and succinctly lay out your points and make it easier for NOSB members to follow your reasoning.
Here is our commentary on just a few of the pressing issues under consideration:
Transparency in Decision Making — Committee Recommendation, Beyond Pesticides comments
The Policy Development Committee has proposed a recommendation that would enhance the transparency of the NOSB’s committee meetings and decision processes. Specifically, the committee has recommended that full, accurate minutes be taken on Committee meetings and conference calls that reflect the source of positions taken on issues, and that minutes, reports, transcripts, and other documents related to board decisions be made freely accessible to the public in hard copy as well as electronically through the World Wide Web. We fully support this recommendation and encourage further transparency in any way it can be achieved. The development or organic standards is intended to be a public stakeholder process in which anyone who has an interest in organic integrity and the future of the organic sector can also have a voice in the process. Increased transparency allows interested parties to give more informed and effective input, leading to more agreeable results for all involved.
Odorized Propane — Committee Recommendation, Beyond Pesticides comments
A petition was submitted to the Crops Committee to allow propane to be exploded in burrows in order to control underground rodents. We support the Committee’s decision to deny the petition and not allow such explosions for a number of reasons. Firstly, exploding underground burrows does not fall under any category of allowed synthetic substances in the Organic Foods Production Act.
Beyond the legal considerations, controlling rodents by essentially bombing their habitats is wildly inconsistent with organic principles and ideals of minimizing environmental impact and encouraging beneficial natural interactions. Such practices would kill or harm any organisms in the surrounding area, including those in the soil, as well a number of beneficial endangered species which also burrow or live underground. The potential for causing fires and the safety risks to the operator are further concerns around the use of propane devices.
There is also a full range of alternative materials and methods already allowed in organic systems which can effectively control rodents, including habitat modification, traps, introduction of predators (such as dogs), rodenticide baits, and many others. These alternatives, in a more effective and less costly manner, achieve with management what propane would achieve with off-farm synthetic inputs.
Because of the likely widespread damage to ecosystems, the availability of alternatives, and the unpredictable nature of the use of such a material combined with its questionable efficacy, we strongly recommend supporting the Committee’s decision and denying the use of this material.
Organic Research Priorities — Committee Discussion Document, Beyond Pesticides Comments
The Materials Committee proposed a discussion document which “shares the committee’s current thinking on a process to collect, prioritize, and maintain research needs related to organic production methods and materials.” We are happy to see the NOSB address the issue of setting research priorities. Like the committee, we welcome the prospect of a process that will help bring more research efforts to troublesome problems in organic production and handling. We look forward to a time when disagreements will be decreased by the availability of research into alternatives that everyone can support.
We would also particularly like to request better quality control over the technical reviews that are received by the committees scientifically evaluating particular substances with regards to their compatibility with organic systems. These reviews are highly influential in the board’s evaluation of particular substances and they should fully address all of the pertinent issues. We would support a return to the use of Technical Advisory Panels such as were used in previous years, which incorporate more diverse viewpoints and expertise.
Here are the rest of the issues for this meeting:
— Copper Sulfate
— List 3 Inert Ingredients
— Ammonium Nonanoate
— Peracetic Acid
— Calcium Chloride
— Indole-3-butyric Acid (IBA)
— Organic Aquaculture
— Sulfites in Wine
— ARA and DHA
— Public Comment Procedures
— Conflict of Interest Policy
We encourage you to use and build upon our commentary in making your own comments.
We share your enthusiasm for organic practices as the solution to pesticide pollution, to advance clean food, air, water, and a sustainable environment —and want to ensure that organic grows stronger every day. But, this won’t happen without your involvement.