(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2017) Last week, at its spring meeting in Denver, Colorado, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted unanimously to recommend that the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule become effective immediately. This recommendation was originally made by the NOSB in 2011, and requires organic meat and poultry producers to allow animals to “exhibit natural behavior, such as the ability to sit, walk, stretch and stand without touching other animals or the sides of their pen, as well as having free and clear access to the outside.” Decisions were also made regarding a wide range of materials and practices, including synthetic additives in infant formula, mulch, sanitizers, and disinfectants. A decision on hydroponic growing methods and their eligibility for organic certification ultimately ended up being delayed again at the spring meeting, with no formal vote or action being taken.
At the meeting, Beyond Pesticides maintained its position on hydroponics, aeroponics, bioponics and aquaponics methods, stating that it should not be considered eligible for organic certification. Organic production depends upon the “Law of Return,” which together with the rule “Feed the soil, not the plant,” and the promotion of biodiversity, provide the ecological basis for organic systems. These hydroponic growing systems are not consistent with these principles in organic production and therefore should not be eligible as certified organic.
Beyond Pesticides pressed the board on a number of issues, including the
“unconscionable delay” on reviewing inert ingredients (which are not be disclosed on product labels) and requesting replacements of approved non-active ingredients in pesticide products. In addition to the delay in reviewing inert ingredients, the board must move ahead with an action plan for contaminated inputs (such as pesticide residues) in organic production, which was last addressed by the NOSB two years ago. The problem of contaminated water resources only adds to the problems already identified, including antibiotics in manure, pesticides in lawn waste, and others. Beyond Pesticides urged the NOSB to devote resources to furthering the plan and its implementation, including the development of a discussion document on water contaminated by oil and gas production. You can find details about Beyond Pesticides’ positions on the Keeping Organic Strong page.
Prior to the meeting, the committee proposals were posted online and opened for public comment. Following the democratic spirit inherent in the organic law, the board is required to take the voiced concerns of the public into consideration in making its decisions. There were over two thousand comments submitted to the board for this meeting. Many of the comments received concerned one of two issues: hydroponic growing methods and their eligibility for organic certification, and sanitizers and disinfectants, including calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, and sodium hypochlorite.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees the National Organic Program (NOP) and the NOSB. The NOSB includes four producers, two handlers, one retailer, three environmentalists, three consumers, one scientist and one certifying agent. The board is authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture regarding the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for organic operations. The Secretary may not allow synthetic substances in organic production and processing unless recommended by the NOSB, in accordance with standards including no adverse effects, compatibility with organic production, and essentiality (deterination of necessity). The NOSB also may provide advice on other aspects of the organic law implementation. For more information on the history of organic agriculture and why it is the best choice for your health and the environment, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food Program Page.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.