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Keeping Organic Strong: Changes in organic regulations and farming practices
National Organic Standards Board

Spring 2014 NOSB Meeting

April 29 - May 1, 2014
St. Anthony Hotel
, 300 East Travis Street, San Antonio, Texas.

The Spring 2014 Meeting dates have been announced, and public comments are due by April 8, 2014. Most of the issues on the agenda are the same as those for the Fall 2013 meeting, which was canceled due to the government shut down. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label.

We changed most of our comments from Fall 2013
Even though most of the proposals at the Spring 2014 meeting will be identical or nearly identical to those that were to be considered at the October 2013 meeting, recent events have caused us to change our comments.

With regard to petitioned materials:
The subcommittees’ review of the data regarding all of the petitioned materials raises issues and questions, described in our comments, about which we hope to have more information in the five years before the sunset date. Future new information concerning relisting of the material must be considered under the same terms as the original petition. Since the new NOP policy requires a two-thirds majority to prevent a material from being relisted after five years –as opposed to the former policy of requiring a two-thirds majority to relist—the only way to have the kind of review that was intended by Congress is to add an annotation with a 5-year expiration date. In some cases, a minority view from the subcommittee has proposed this expiration date. Our comments reflect the need for the expiration date for all petitioned materials.

With regard to Sunset materials:
According to the Agricultural Market Service's (AMS) September 16, 2013 Federal Register notice, this NOSB meeting may be the last chance for public input on substantive matters affecting board and public consideration of sunset recommendations that will be voted on at a subsequent (presumably the next) NOSB meeting. AMS has stated that new substantive information brought to a sunset voting meeting will be considered "untimely." Thus, it is critical that technical reviews (TRs) and checklists are published to facilitate public comment at the meeting prior to a voting meeting. Of the seven sunset materials being reviewed at this meeting, new TRs have been received for sulfurous acid, sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate, and aqueous potassium silicate, but not for gellan gum, tragacanth gum, marsala, or sherry. Checklists have not been published for any of the materials.

The NOP announcement concerning sunset allows for only one kind of recommendation to come out of the subcommittee –a recommendation against relisting the sunset substance. Even if the subcommittee believes that a material should be relisted during sunset, it does not have the authority to act on behalf of the full board. Therefore, the subcommittee must propose that it not be relisted.

The NOSB Materials Subcommittee is proposing that Confidential Business Information (CBI) claims will no longer be accepted in petitions. If this policy is adopted, then new materials petitions will be at a disadvantage in having to disclose information not disclosed by previous petitioners. In the interest of fairness, therefore, materials should not be relisted during the sunset process unless the CBI claimed in the original petition is disclosed. In the case of sulfurous acid and gellan gum, the petitioner claimed as CBI sections of the petition on which the original listing decision was made. Assuming that the CBI policy passes, this data should be disclosed, and it should be disclosed in a manner that allows public comment on it to be considered “timely.”

According to the Agricultural Market Service's (AMS) September 16, 2013 Federal Register notice, annotations cannot be added during the sunset process. They must be added through a petition. Because Beyond Pesticides has the same concerns about scientific uncertainty regarding the sunset materials as petitioned materials (as described in our comments), we will be submitting petitions to add 5-year expiration dates to sunset materials.

To truly make an impact in the future of organic, Beyond Pesticides encourages you to:

The 15 member board, consisting of 4 farmers, 3 environmentalists, 3 consumers, 2 food processors, and one retailer, scientist and certifying agent, votes to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming. The NOSB acts as a life-line from government to the organic community. As it considers input from you, the public - the concerned citizens upon whom organic integrity depends. That is why your participation is vital to the development of organic standards. Rest assured, if you submit a public comment either in person or online, your concerns will be considered by the Board. Remember that the NOSB can't take serious action to protect organic integrity without your input!

Materials in the list below are either the subject of petitions –all but glycerin, petitions to allow use—or the subject of sunset review. Petitioned materials must have evidence summarized in the proposals that they meet the OFPA requirements of essentiality, no adverse effects on humans and the environment, and compatibility with organic practices. Sunset items are already on the National List, and being considered for delisting. They are subject to the same criteria, but are being considered under NOP’s new rules. Although the NOSB will not vote on them at this meeting, comments received after this meeting will be considered untimely. The subcommittees have not published complete summaries of evidence concerning sunset material.

Issues Before the NOSB for Spring 2014

As stated above, we are revising our comments submitted for the Fall 2013 NOSB meeting. We will be posting the revised comments as we complete them. Meanwhile, see below for comments submitted last fall.
Crops Subcommittee

GMO Ad-Hoc Subcommittee

Policy Development Subcommittee

. Livestock Subcommittee

NOSB Quick Links!

 

See Full Meeting Agenda

 

Take Action at Regulations.gov!
(Comments Due April 8, 2014!)

 

See All Meeting Materials and Issues

 

The Organic Foods Production Act

 

Crops Subcommittee

Streptomycin
Subcommittee Proposal, Comments Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Fall 2014 Comments

Sample Comment

I oppose the use of antiobiotics in organic apple and pear production. As with tetracycline, I urge the NOSB to take action to remove the use of streptomycin from organic fruit production.

I expect organic food to be free of hazardous inputs such as antibiotics. The potential for agricultural uses of antibiotics to cause resistant bacteria is very real. The fireblight bacteria and and human disease share common genes for resistance to streptomycin. As with tetracycline, streptomycin is a critical drug that must remain viable for use against human pathogens.

Apart from human health concerns, streptomycin is not essential to organic production. Many growers have already stopped using antiobiotics in apple and pear production, and there are a number of viable alternatives currently being used and researched.

Along with tetracycline, streptomycin has been permitted for use to control fire blight in organic apples and pears. In April 2011, the NOSB voted to put an expiration date of October 21, 2014 on both antibiotics. The tree fruit industry petitioned to restore both materials to the National List. In April 2013, the NOSB voted to uphold the 2014 expiration date for tetracycline. Many issues are the same for the two materials. See Beyond Pesticides' comments on tetracycline, Comments from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), Statement from the IDSA on Resistance, Grower Lessons and Emerging Research for Developing an Integrated Non-Antiobiotic Fire Blight Control Program in Organic Fruit, and the PAY articles “Antibiotics in Fruit Production,” “A is for Apples, Alar, and Antibiotics” for more information. At the October 2013 meeting, the NOSB will vote on whether to extend the use of streptomycin by restoring it to the National List with an extended expiration date.
Beyond Pesticides opposes the extension of the use of streptomycin.
Those supporting an extension of streptomycin use say:
There is no evidence that applications of antibiotics to orchards during bloom contributes to antibiotic -resistance in human pathogens. Human pathogens have not been found in orchards and would have to be present for the resistance genes to transfer. Naturally occurring streptomycin- resistant bacteria may be minor components of the overall bacterial communities found on apple flowers and in soils, but their presence is independent of the antibiotic application. The amount and timing of the use of this material in an orchard environment does not contribute to any human health concerns, especially in light of streptomycin being ineffective in humans when ingested orally.
Those opposing an extension of streptomycin use say:
There is evidence that application of streptomycin leads to increase resistance to streptomycin in orchard bacteria, that human pathogens and the fire blight bacteria share the same gene pool of genes resistant to streptomycin (i.e., that the same genes responsible for resistance in Erwinia amylovora are also responsible for resistance in human pathogens), that human pathogens do not need to be present in the orchard to obtain resistance genes acquired by and augmented in orchard bacteria, that streptomycin residues are sometimes present in treated fruit, and that streptomycin is still a critically important antimicrobial for use against human pathogens. In light of the crisis of antibiotic resistance, we cannot allow streptomycin use to be extended in organic production.
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Magnesium Oxide
Subcommittee Proposal, Comments Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
Beyond Pesticides opposes the Crops Subcommittee proposal to list magnesium oxide to control the viscosity of a clay suspension agent for natural humates. We support the minority position of listing with a 5-year expiration date. We oppose the proposal in spite of a recognition of the value of liquid humates, whose use is made possible by magnesium oxide, in organic and transitional land care. We are unable to support this petition because existing concerns about potential environmental impacts will certainly require increased scrutiny within five years, during which time we expect that there will be new information about the health and environmental impacts, and the current sunset process creates a future unreasonable burden to alter the annotation as alternative manufacturing methods become available. Given the difficulty that the new policy on sunset poses for annotations undermines the premise of continuous improvement in the statute and the rule, we believe it would be inappropriate at this time to support the listing of magnesium oxide without an expiration date.
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Vinasse
Subcommittee Proposal, Comments Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
The NOSB received a petition for Vinasse as a synthetic soil amendment and plant nutrient (fertilizer) for organic crop production. In effect, the petition seeks to have the NOSB classify vinasse as a non-synthetic (natural). The majority of the CS recognized that some vinasse is synthetic and some nonsynthetic, but voted to classify it as nonsynthetic and ask the NOP to place restrictions on its use in guidance. A minority asks to recognize both synthetic and nonsynthetic forms, and place restrictions on both into regulations. Beyond Pesticides notes first that the NOSB has a responsibility to determine whether a material is synthetic. Leaving that determination to NOP or materials review organizations is not appropriate, especially since the NOP has not approved a final classification of materials policy. Secondly, Beyond Pesticides argues for recognizing both synthetic and nonsynthetic forms of vinasse, giving criteria for distinguishing them. Finally, we argue that the subcommittee and the NOSB must address use restrictions in the context of OFPA requirements, which it has not.
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Laminarin
Subcommittee Proposal, Comments Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
The NOSB received a petition for Laminarin, a seaweed extract for disease control that is allowed by EPA for that purpose. The NOSB must decide whether laminarin is synthetic or natural. In the case of laminarin, we need to look at the synthetic ingredients that are added. Although the majority of the NOSB considers laminarin non synthetic, Beyond Pesticides has made the point that it is in fact synthetic because sulfuric acid is added but not removed. Sodium hydroxide is added to neutralize sulfuric acid, but the sodium sulfate produced by the neutralization reaction is not removed. If laminarin is classified as nonsynthetic, the NOSB will not be able to decide on whether to allow its use on the amplification of plant defensive chemicals that is its mode of action.
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2015 Sunset Review List - Crops Subcommittee
NOSB Sunset Review and Questions
Although the materials below will not be reviewed and voted on until NOSB's Fall 2014 meeting, under the NOP’s new sunset policy, any comments received after the Spring 2014 meeting will be considered “untimely.” Therefore, it is important to comment on these materials now. Try to focus on new information that has come to light since the last NOSB meeting. For assistance, the review list provides links to previous technical reports, the substance's original NOSB petition, and past NOSB actions on the material.
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Aqueous Potassium Silicate (Includes Listing 1 and 2)
NOSB Sunset Review and Questions, Comments Summary,Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
Beyond Pesticides urges the Crops Subcommittee to oppose the relisting of aqueous potassium silicate for both the insecticide and the plant disease control uses. It has been found by the NOSB not to meet the OFPA criteria of essentiality and compatibility with organic production. There are potential adverse impacts that have not been evaluated by the NOSB. The CS should investigate organic management systems that conserve and build available silica in the soil as alternatives to potassium silicate, addressing nonsynthetic materials and practices that would avoid the need for potassium silicate that involve soil management as well as foliar treatments. Furthermore, under the new sunset policy announced by the NOP, unless the Crops Subcommittee (CS) proposes not to relist aqueous potassium silicate, it will not be reviewed and considered by the full board as required by law.
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Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate (SCP)
NOSB Sunset Review and Questions, Comments Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
Sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate (SCP) is currently listed as an algaecide. Its use in organic crop production is restricted to the food uses identified on the product label.

Beyond Pesticides opposes the relisting of sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate (SCP) as an algaecide. It has been found by the NOSB not to meet the OFPA criteria of essentiality, compatibility with organic production, and has impacts on human health and the environment. We urge the Crops Subcommittee to oppose the relisting of SCP that was originally approved as an alternative to copper sulfate in rice—although there is no evidence it is used or efficacious. Furthermore, under the new sunset process announced by the NOP, unless the Crops Subcommittee (CS) proposes not to relist SCP, it will not be reviewed and considered by the full board as required by law.
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Sulfurous Acid
NOSB Sunset Review and Questions, Comments Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
Beyond Pesticides urges the Crops Subcommittee to oppose the relisting of sulfurous acid to correct alkalinity in soil that has accumulated carbonates and bicarbonates through irrigation water in more arid regions. There are potential adverse impacts including environmental impacts on soil organisms, and others that have not been evaluated by the NOSB. The CS should investigate organic management systems that can be utilized outside water-abundant regions that avoid the need for sulfurous acid. Furthermore, under the new sunset policy announced by the NOP, unless the CS proposes not to relist aqueous potassium silicate, it will not be reviewed and considered by the full board as required by law.
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Materials Subcommittee/GMO Ad-Hoc Subcommittee

Research Priorities
Subcommittee Proposal, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Fall 2013 Comments
The Materials Subcommittee (MS) recommends reconfirms support for giving priority in organic research to the following issues be given priority in organic research identified in 2012: Whole Farm Systems, Alternatives to Antiobiotics, Evaluation of GMOs Vaccines, and Methionine Alternatives. In addition the MS supports the following new priorities: Organic Aquaculture, Aquatic Biodiversity, Herd Health, Pastured Poultry and Salmonella, Commercial Availability Assessments, Consumer Demand, Fate of Genetically Engineered Plant Material in Compost, and Reduction of Genetically Modified Content of Breeding Lines.
Beyond Pesticides supports the priorities identified by the MS and encourages others to submit further ideas to the NOSB.
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Confidential Business Information
Subcommittee Proposal, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments (See #1)
The role of the NOSB under OFPA and the Federal Rule is to review substances for inclusion on the National List. The NOSB is in a unique position in being members of the public who advise a federal agency. NOSB operates in a transparent environment and all its documents are either publicly posted or can be shared under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Operating in such a transparent environment is difficult when some of the information submitted in support of petitions is claimed as confidential business information (CBI). Ideally, petitions should comply with the openness required under FOIA. The Materials Subcommittee recommendation states, “The NOSB recognizes the investment and risk associated with development of proprietary materials and processes. The board’s intention is not to place petitioners at economic risk through information provided as part of a petition process. However, the importance of transparency of the petition process, the right of the public to fully know the materials included in or on certified organic products, and the potential for an untenable administrative burden of management of CBI precludes the provision of CBI in materials petitions.” The Material Subcommittee therefore recommends eliminating the provision for CBI in materials petitions.

Beyond Pesticides has concerns about stricter provisions for disclosure being applied to materials used in organic production than are applied to much more hazardous materials used in “conventional” production, but supports the proposal in the spirit of transparency, allowing NOSB members and the public to fully evaluate materials used in organic production. We agree with the subcommittee that in general, “Detailed, proprietary information regarding the manufacturing process is not required,” and believe that the NOP, NOSB, and petitioners can work together to ensure that the NOSB has adequate information to make decisions without disclosing the competitively sensitive information on manufacturing processes.
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Update of Petition and Technical Review process: Miscellaneous updates
Subcommittee Proposal, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2013 Comments (See #2)
NOP is requesting input on revising the procedures for petitions and technical review. This effort is aimed at making it clearer for petitioners to submit complete petitions and to know what to expect in the petition process, for the NOSB to have clear policies for reviewing petitions in a consistent way, and for the public to have transparency in how petitions are received, evaluated and reviewed.

Beyond Pesticides supports the Materials Subcommittee recommendation for revising the procedures for petitions and technical review. Besides incorporating the changes of the CBI recommendation, they are necessary to incorporate the policy on ancillary ingredients adopted in April. Additional clarifications of the procedures are helpful.
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Report: Seed Purity from GMOs
Subcommittee Report, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
This report summarizes the public comment received from the discussion documents of the Materials/GMO Ad Hoc Subcommittee on seed purity and genetically engineered (GE) organisms, providing the subcommittee’s analysis of the issue. It gives the public a chance to comment on means of protecting the integrity of organic seeds.

Beyond Pesticides comments that prevention of contamination with genetically engineered (GE) organisms is important to maintaining organic integrity. The NOSB has the authority and responsibility to recommend action to USDA concerning circumstances that affect organic agriculture. USDA must act to prevent contamination of organic and other non-GE seeds with GE genes. USDA should propose and support a compensation plan funded by patent holders of GMO seeds.
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Policy Development Subcommittee

Update on Status of the Policy Development Subcommittee
Comment Summary
Check back soon, there is more information to come!

Compliance, Accreditation, and Certification Subcommittee

Guidance on Retail Certification
Subcommittee Proposal, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides Spring 2014 Comments
The CAC Subcommittee is soliciting stakeholder feedback and input about areas of the rule regarding retail certification that are unclear. The feedback will then be included in a recommendation to the NOP requesting the development of Education and Outreach guidance to clarify the existing rule. This clarification will provide retailers with a clearer, more concise understanding of how the rule applies to a retail operation (certified or non-certified), so each retailer can ensure that they are in full compliance, thus helping to protect and maintain consumer confidence and organic integrity.

Beyond Pesticides agrees with the Subcommittee that there is a need for clarification and encourages interested individuals to provide input regarding areas of the rule that are unclear. Where the retail operation is certified and has a mixed operation, it must be clearer than it is now that there is product sold and produced or processed on the premises that does not meet the certification standards. It is not uncommon for people to think that everything sold or processed in a certified organic retail store is organic. It is critical that certifiers make a determination on the adequacy of the labeling and store signage. Guidance is needed to ensure that labeling and signage are adequate.
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Clarifying How Certifiers Apply 205.206(e)
Subcommittee Proposal, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
Regulation 205.206(e) is the crop pest, weed, and disease management practice standard. This regulation governs the methods by which organic growers manage pests. Acknowledging that there is uncertainty and variability in understanding the nuances of 205.206(e), the CACS Subcommittee asks the following questions of organic certifiers in order to provide a clear and comprehensive understanding of the regulation across the organic community.

1. What activities or practices do you require of applicants and certified operators in their Organic System Plans (OSP) with respect to their compliance with §205.206(e)?
2. What form of verification or records from the operator do you require in support of their compliance with § 205.206(e), either during review of the OSP, during the inspection, or upon the inspection review?
3. What information do you require when an operator needs to amend their OSP on short notice when pest pressure unpredictably or unexpectedly rises beyond their decision threshold?
4. Other than through records, how do you verify that approved substances are applied
only when other, less toxic or aggressive means have been tried and found wanting?

Beyond Pesticides encourages this discussion in order to obtain a clear understanding of how 205.206(e) is implemented. Consumers of organic products have high expectations regarding the substances and practices organic producers employ in their production systems. A clear explanation of the pest control processes regulated under 205.206(e) can help consumers understand the rigors of organic production and the value of these important practices. However, this discussion should not minimize the responsibility of the NOSB to determine allowances of synthetic materials in organic systems. It remains important that the NOSB determine the essentiality of a material, and that the decision to list a material takes into account its entire life cycle from manufacture through use and disposal. A simple analysis that certifiers will ensure that materials are not used until organic management practices are carried out, thus minimizing the need for synthetic inputs and the potential adverse impact of the materials, in no way should suggest that the Board limit its review or choose not to adopt annotations that may be necessary to carefully restrict how and when a material is used.  
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Sound and Sensible
Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Fall 2013 Comments
The Sound and Sensible initiative seeks a balance between ensuring that measures are in place to insure organic integrity (“Sound”) and minimizing burdens on organic producers, who find that the paperwork involved in certification is often overwhelming (“Sensible”). The Sound and Sensible Discussion Document informs growers and the public of steps that certifiers and NOP are taking to standardize and streamline many aspects of the organic certification process. The Subcommittee is also soliciting input from the public as to how this process can be improved. The objective is to encourage new producers to become certified, and retain producers that are already certified.

Beyond Pesticides believes that the key to Sound and Sensible is a multi-level oversight system (inspection, certification, accreditation, and oversight of accreditation) managed with rigor and accountability. USDA and NOP address requirements for quality assurance of inspection and certification through the accreditation system; a mechanism for continuous oversight of the NOP accreditation system itself must be institutionalized. Continuous oversight of the NOP would not only ensure that noncompliances in the accreditation system are  identified through procedures such as internal and external audits, but also that corrective actions are taken by the accreditation body (NOP), reviewed by USDA management, and reported to the oversight body (Peer Review Panel) within a time frame set by the oversight body. Continuous oversight of the NOP’s multi-level quality system can be a source of creative ideas for soundness and sensibility.

Beyond Pesticides encourages those in the organic community to review the CACS Subcommittee's discussion document and provide input to the Board about how this process can be improved. This discussion is an opportunity to both grow the organic label, and increase consumer confidence of the integrity of organic. The National Organic Coalition has produced extensive comments on Sound and Sensible, which we support.
Submit a Public Comment! - Please submit a separate comment for each issue.
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Handling Subcommittee

Ammonium Hydroxide
Subcommittee Proposal, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments

Sample Comment

I support the Handling Subcommittee's proposal to reject Ammonium Hydroxide for inclusion on to the National List. As the subcommittee notes, the substance is a "severe irritant," and presents a "serious toxicological concern." The substance is toxic to fish and other aquatic species, and is also a greenhouse gas. Ammonium Hydroxide meets none of the criteria under the Organic Foods Production Act in terms of human health and environmental impacts and compatibility with organic. Moreover, the product is not essential, as there are a number of viable alternatives that could be used instead of boiler additives. In addition, since the NOP has reversed the meaning of sunset, if the HS chooses to support this substance, it should attach an annotation with a 5-year expiration date.

As the Handling Subcommittee proposal states, "Ammonium hydroxide is a powerful alkali petitioned for use as a boiler additive because it neutralizes carbonic acid in condensate to prevent corrosion. Ammonium hydroxide is produced by the addition of water to ammonia. Ammonia is produced on a large scale worldwide."

The product is "a severe irritant which must be handled properly because exposure by humans and other mammals during production or use presents a serious toxicological concern. It is toxic by all routes, inhalation, dermal and ingestion and the toxicity is well documented. It is an air and water pollutant and contributes as a greenhouse gas. It is toxic to fish and other aquatic species. Spillage could cause considerable environmental damage."

The subcommittee recommends denying the petition because "Ammonium hydroxide is not essential to organic production. There are other boiler additives on the National List. There are also a number of alternative practices which can be used instead of boiler additives. The addition of ammonium hydroxide is not consistent with organic agriculture."

Beyond Pesticides agrees with the Subcommittee's assessment of ammonium hydroxide and urges it be rejected as an addition to the National List because it meets none of the OFPA criteria of human and environmental health impacts, essentiality, and compatibility with organic production. Because of the new sunset policy, if the NOSB decides to list ammonium hydroxide, it should add a 5-year expiration date to ensure that the health, environmental, and essentiality questions are addressed with the kind of review that was intended by Congress.
Submit a Public Comment! - Please submit a separate comment for each issue.
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Glycerin
Subcommittee Proposal, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
The petitioner has requested removal of Glycerin from the National List as a synthetic product for handling in organic production now that there is sufficient quantity of organically produced glycerin and, thus, synthetic glycerin is no longer required. Because glycerin produced by hydrolysis of fats and oils is currently listed, the NOSB is seeking public comment regarding the potential impact to producers and industry should glycerin as is presently listed be removed from the National List. At present, the NOSB has not received a petition to add Glycerin produced by other methods to the National List.

Beyond Pesticides supports the decision to remove synthetic glycerin from the National List, given that there are organic nonsynthetic alternatives available. This is positive development that shows the value of organic regulations to encourage safer products on the marketplace. We hope to see the industry transition towards this process. As more and more products are produced by fermentation processes, the NOSB should propose regulations defining organic fermentation products.

Submit a Public Comment! - Please submit a separate comment for each issue.
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Polyalkylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether (PGME)
Subcommittee Discussion Document, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
In 2012, NOP received a petition to add PGME as a boiler water additive to the National List. The NOP determined that the substance was eligible for petition to the National List and subsequently send the substance to the NOSB's Handling Subcommittee for review. The Subcommittee requested a technical report (TR) on the substance in order to receive additional information regarding its use in organic processing. The subcommittee determined, based on the TR, that under its petitioned use, PGME does not come into direct contact with processed organic products, and was thus not eligible or required to be listed in the National List. The Handling Subcommittee requests public comment to help determine the eligibility status of PGME to the National List.

Beyond Pesticides believes that although PGME is non-volatile, contact with organic food is possible under this use through entrainment in water droplets. It should be evaluated through the petition process for its appropriateness for use in organic production. PGME is made from highly toxic ethylene dioxide, and the TR identifies alternative production practices that do not require an additive like PGME.
Submit a Public Comment! - Please submit a separate comment for each issue.
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2015 Sunset Review List - Handling Subcommittee
Review List
Although the materials below will not be reviewed and voted on until NOSB's Fall 2014 meeting, under the NOP’s new sunset policy, any comments received after the Spring 2014 meeting will be considered “untimely.” Therefore, it is important to comment on these materials now. Try to focus on new information that has come to light since the last NOSB meeting. For assistance, the review list provides links to previous technical reports, the substance's original NOSB petition, and past NOSB actions on the material.
Submit a Public Comment! - Please submit a separate comment for each issue.
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Gellan Gum
Review List, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
Gellan gum is currently listed as a non-organic natural substance allowed as an ingredient in or on processed organic products.

Beyond Pesticides opposes the relisting of gellan gum on §205.605a. Gellan gum is synthetic and should have been considered for listing on §205.605(b). Furthermore, under the new sunset policy announced by the NOP, unless the Handling Subcommittee proposes not to relist gellan gum, it will not be reviewed and considered by the full board as required by law. We urge the Handling Subcommittee to propose that this substance not be relisted.
Submit a Public Comment! - Please submit a separate comment for each issue.
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Tragacanth Gum
Review List, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments

Tragacanth gum is currently listed as a nonorganically produced agricultural product allowed as an ingredient in nor on processed organic products.

Beyond Pesticides opposes the relisting of tragacanth gum on §205.606. There are potential health effects that have not been taken into account. The Center for Science in the Public Interest lists tragacanth gum as a food additive that certain people should avoid because it has caused occasional severe allergic reactions. The HS has not previously investigated the impacts of nonorganic production of tragacanth gum on consumers, workers, or the environment. Furthermore, under the new sunset policy announced by the NOP, unless the Handling Subcommittee (HS) proposes not to relist tragacanth gum, it will not be reviewed and considered by the full board as required by law. We urge the Handling Subcommittee to propose that this substance not be relisted.
Submit a Public Comment! - Please submit a separate comment for each issue.
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Marsala and Sherry
Review List, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments

Marsala and sherry are currently listed as a nonorganically produced agricultural products allowed as an ingredient in nor on processed organic products.

Beyond Pesticides opposes the relisting of marsala and sherry on §205.606. Non-organic grape production involves the use of many toxic chemicals. There is no evidence of essentiality. Furthermore, under the new sunset policy announced by the NOP, unless the Handling Subcommittee proposes not to relist marsala and sherry, they will not be reviewed and considered by the full board as required by law. We urge the Handling Subcommittee to propose that marsala and sherry not be relisted.
Submit a Public Comment! - Please submit a separate comment for each issue.
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Livestock Subcommittee

Methionine in Organic Poultry Feed
Subcommittee Proposal, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments

Beyond Pesticides opposes the use of synthetic methionine in poultry feed. Poultry with adequate access to pasture do not need synthetic methionine. In addition, we oppose this proposal, which may increase the amount of synthetic methionine used and is inconsistent with the step-down phase out of synthetic methionine.

 The discussion of the need for methionine supplementation must start with defining a system that naturally provides for adequate methionine for most of the year. A system that depends on routine synthetic inputs is not organic. The first step is to define the organic system that provides for most of the methionine needs of the flock. The second step is to determine what needs are not being met by the system and how to meet them. Besides pasture, there are many natural sources of methionine available.

  Synthetic MET is now subject to a sunset review by the NOSB by 2017. This proposal would re-set the sunset review to 2019, extending once again synthetic methionine’s use.  In view of the constantly changing landscape regarding methionine alternatives, new information concerning relisting of the material must be considered under the same terms as the original petition. If the board decides to approve this modification of the methionine listing, it is important to annotate the listing with an expiration date. In view of the NOP’s reversal of  the sunset policy, the only way to have the kind of review that was intended by Congress is to add an annotation with an expiration date. In this case, since the proposal is seen as a correction of the current listing that sunsets October 2, 2017, which is part of a step-down phase out of the material, the expiration date should be set to October 2, 2017.
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Acidified Sodium Chlorite
Subcommittee Proposal, Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
Acidified Sodium Chlorite (ASC) was petitioned for use as a pre and post teat dip treatment in organic livestock production. The Livestock Subcommittee indicates that, although the substance generally satisfies criteria for listing on the National List, there are a number of functional alternative substances available. Thus, the Livestock Subcommittee does not recommend the addition of acidified sodium chlorite because it is not essential for organic production. Beyond Pesticides supports the conclusion of the LS and also points out that organic production should be moving away from dependency on products of chlorine chemistry.

In addition, if the NOSB chooses to approve the petition for acidified sodium chlorite, it should add an annotation that causes the listing to expire in five years. The sunset policy announced September 16, 2013 reverses the previous policy and eliminates the true sunsetting of National List materials. In order to restore the sunset as envisioned by the authors of OFPA, the sunset date must be replaced by an expiration date. The expiration date requires that acidified sodium chlorite be delisted on December 14, 2020 unless it is repetitioned and relisted. This will allow new information to be considered in a meaningful fashion.
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Aquaculture Materials
Links to Subcommittee Proposals: Chlorine, Tocopherols, Vitamins, Minerals, Biologics (Vaccines), CO2 (for aquatic plants), Chlorine (for aquatic plants), Micronutrients (for aquatic plants), Lignin Sulfonate (for aquatic plants), Vitamins B1, B12, H
Comment Summary, Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments

Sample Comment

All of the materials petitioned for addition to the National List for organic aquaculture are synthetic substances that would be used routinely. I oppose the routine use of any synthetic materials in organic aquaculture and I oppose the use of any synthetics without clear regulations defining such a system.

Any system that is adopted must follow the strict guidelines of the Organic Foods Production Act. Fish in an organic aquaculture system should only receive synthetic inputs when natural feeds within a defined aquatic system are insufficient.

I urge the NOSB and NOP to maintain the integrity of organic by putting an emphasis on systems-based aquaculture, rather than an input-based scheme. If I purchase organic, I am doing so because I expect the producers and processors of the products I buy to take important steps to safeguard the health of the environment.

Aquaculture materials, more than any others, should not be approved without the certainty that they will be considered under the same standards as petitions after 5 years. Without regulations in place, it is impossible to define the essentiality of synthetic materials because the nutrients supplied by the system cannot be identified without describing the system. It is also impossible to characterize the impacts without knowing how much of the material may leave the system and where it will go. Every aquaculture material motion should be annotated with “until May 1, 2019 or five years from the date that use is allowed.”

 

Chlorine materials (calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, and sodium hypochlorite) have been petitioned for disinfecting hard surfaces and culture water. Disinfection of hard surfaces fits into an OFPA category of allowed listings, but disinfection of culture water does not. Synthetic trace minerals, vitamins, and tocopherols have been petitioned as feed additives. Tocopherols would be added as a synthetic preservative; vitamins and minerals would be added to supplement the diet.

The NOP has not yet proposed regulations defining organic aquaculture systems. All of these materials are petitioned for routine use rather than under defined conditions when natural feeds are insufficient.

Beyond Pesticides opposes the listing of any synthetics for routine use and the listing of any synthetic materials for use in aquaculture until regulations defining organic aquaculture systems have been adopted in final form. Regulations must have been considered through the public comment process in relation to previous board policy, so that the petitioned materials can be assessed relative to adopted policy and regulations. While current aquaculture systems may adopt important environmental practices, organic aquaculture systems must be defined by those practices that protect ecological balance and biodiversity, ensuring that the health of ecosystems is maintained, and ensure that organic aquaculture products are fed by the aquatic system rather than by synthetic inputs.

Aquaculture materials, more than any others, should not be approved without the certainty that they will be considered de novo after 5 years. Without regulations in place, it is impossible to define the essentiality of synthetic materials because the nutrients supplied by the system cannot be identified without describing the system. It is also impossible to characterize the impacts without knowing how much of the material may leave the system and where it will go. Every aquaculture material motion should be annotated with “until May 1, 2019 or five years from the date that use is allowed.”
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General Comments

NOP-NOSB Collaboration
Beyond Pesticides' Spring 2014 Comments
Beyond Pesticides would like to address recent attempts by the USDA to usurp and deny the authority of the NOSB under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). We believe these efforts endanger the future of the organic label. We urge the NOSB to reject (i) additions to the National List that raise potential health, safety, or essentiality concerns until there is a clear collaborative process in place and the sunset process is reinstated to require materials review to effect a material’s relisting, and (ii) the adoption of NOP-required policies in its policies and procedures that do not meet with NOSB member approval. NOP, in effecting changes outside of the collaborative process defined in the Policy and Procedures Manual (PPM) does not meet with the expected NOSB and public process of review.
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Sunset Process
Beyond Pesticides'Spring 2014 Comments
When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, it created a diverse 15-member NOSB with a minority of corporate agribusiness representatives. In an attempt to push the oversight of the industry towards consensus, the regulations require a two-thirds majority for “decisive” votes like reapproving a synthetic material for use in organics after it sunsets. The USDA’s National Organic Program’s (NOP) however, has arbitrarily changed the rules for approval of synthetic and non-organic materials used in organics, disregarding the Board’s policies and the Organic Act.  Importantly, instead of needing a super-majority of the Board every five years to continue using a synthetic in organics, the NOP has, without the legally required consultation with the NOSB, published an edict in the Federal Register requiring a two-thrids vote to instead remove a material.
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