(Beyond Pesticides, April 16, 2013) The spring meeting of the National Organic Standards Board just recently ended, and Beyond Pesticides is happy to report that the Board voted to stand by a 2014 expiration date for the use of tetracycline in organic apple and pear production. Six members on the Board voted to remove this antibiotic as soon as possible. The Board originally voted in 2011 to set the expiration date, but groups representing apple and pear growers in the northwest petitioned the NOSB for another extension, after years of repeated extensions.
Additionally, the Board voted to set up a public docket to receive year-round communications from the public on issues that the public thinks should be addressed by the NOSB and the National Organic Program of USDA. And, the Board committed to reviewing all sub-ingredients in processed food to determine compatibility with organic standards under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).
Beyond Pesticides has long pursued, as part of our mission, the widespread adoption of organic practices as the alternative to hazardous pesticides typically used in food production. Our organization is dedicated to ensuring the growth of organic through the building of consumer trust in production practices —that’s why we felt especially concerned about antibiotic use in organic apple and pear production.
Antibiotic use in a non-medical setting, such as an apple or pear orchard, represents a serious public health concern. This use contributes to bacterial resistance in human pathogens that are difficult to control with the same antibiotics when they are needed to protect us in life threatening medical cases. Organic is adopting practices and materials that replace antibiotics.
In the same spirit, the Board rejected petitions to allow in organic production new synthetic materials because of health or environmental effects, impacts on beneficial organisms, and questions about their essentiality or need, given the availability of alternatives. The Board rejected a fungicide (polyoxin D zinc salt) and a rooting hormone (IBA), as well as materials proposed for processed foods (sulfuric acid, barley beta fiber, sugar beet fiber, and DBDMH).
Here is a brief overview of select issues that represent a victory for organics -more background information can be found on our Keeping Organic Strong webpage.
Other Ingredients: There should be no such thing as “secret ingredients” in organic food. Thanks to you, all ingredients, even “ingredients within ingredients” in organic food must now meet the criteria under the OFPA.
Polyoxin D Zinc Salt: As a broad spectrum fungicide, Polyoxin D was inherently incompatible with the basic principles of organic production. The Board rejected the petition to allow this hazardous synthetic substance into organic production, where it could have negatively affected non-target organisms, including beneficial fungi, insects and aquatic species.
Indole-3-butyric acid (IBA): IBA, a plant hormone in the auxin family and an ingredient in many commercial horticultural plant rooting products did not meet organic standards. Due to consumer pressure, IBA’s unknown health and environmental effects, and the fact that there was no demonstrable need for the substance, the Board rejected the petition to allow IBA in organic agriculture.
DBDMH: As an antimicrobial wash in meat packing, DBDMH would have compromised organic integrity. This harmful synthetic was shown to endanger worker safety, and was expected to have detrimental impacts on soil microorganisms. Thanks to your comments, NOSB denied the petition to allow this hazardous substance in organic production
You also kept the pressure on regulators concerning contamination from genetically engineered (GE) crops. Preventing contamination of organic crops by GE organisms was an important subject of discussion at the Spring 2013 NOSB meeting. Your comments continue to put pressure on government agencies to respect the right of organic farmers to acquire seeds not contaminated by GE genes.
As the organic movement rapidly grows, we expect to sustain this positive momentum into the Fall 2013 meeting. Stay tuned to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage for a detailed review of the NOSB decisions in April and for issues on the agenda for the fall meeting, to be held in Louisville, KY, October 22-24, 2013.
Note: One more antibiotic, also slated to be removed by 2014, will be on the agenda for reconsideration in the fall — streptomycin.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.