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Keeping Organic Strong: Changes in organic regulations and farming practices

National Organic Standards Board

Results from the Spring 2013 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board

View Results by Subcommittee:


April 9-12, 2013 • Portland, Oregon

In April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) met to decide on a range of issues concerning allowable materials and practices in certified organic farming. The recommendations adopted by the Board will be sent on to USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) for incorporation into federal regulations.

On this page, you will find summaries of the significant actions taken by the Board at the meeting along with supporting documentation. Each issue is discussed separately, incorporating Beyond Pesticides' positions on what the outcomes signify for the future of the organic movement. In an effort to provide the public with the maximum amount of transparency, we have also included the votes cast by individual members of the Board. Each member's name is hyperlinked to NOP's summary of their background experience in organic production.

The next NOSB meeting will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, on October 22-24, 2013. More information about this meeting will be posted as it becomes available, but we expect Fall '13 to be an exciting meeting, so stay tuned! If you'd like further information about previous NOSB meetings go to our NOSB Archives page.

Issues Discussed by the Board
These are the materials and substances which came before the board for consideration at this meeting. For the materials on which a vote was taken, the substance's current regulatory status is noted as well as what the outcome of the Board's final vote means for this status. You can also access the original recommendations proposed by the committees going into the meeting and Beyond Pesticides' comments submitted to the Board concerning each issue. Any final recommendations adopted by the full Board are also included.

 

 

 

 

Crops Subcommittee: (back to top)

Oxytetracycline

 

Current NOP Status: Allowed in organic production
NOSB Recommendation: Recommend a phase-out date for oxytetracycline of October 2014

Beyond Pesticides was against the petition to allow an extension for the use of oxytetracycline in organic apples and pears as it is not necessary for production and its use promotes further antibiotic resistance in humans. The Board decided that oxytetracycline should be phased out as of October 2014, in accordance with the current schedule. The NOSB recommended that farmers be allowed to apply for emergency exemptions until 2017 and are requesting that the NOP look at the viability of this approach.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of an extension for oxytetracycline https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against allowing an extension of oxytetracycline
9 Votes 6 Votes
Nick Maravell, Zea Sonnabend, Robert "Mac" Stone, Wendy Fulwider, Harold Austin, Tracy Favre, John Foster, Joe Dickson, Carmela Beck Jay Feldman, Colehour Bondera, Jennifer Taylor, Jean Richardson, Calvin Walker, and Francis Thicke


 

Polyoxin-D Zinc Salt

Current NOP Status: Prohibited in Organic Production
NOSB Recommendation: Remain Prohibited in Organic Production

The Board voted against adding polyoxin D zinc salt to the National List, and Beyond Pesticides agrees with the subcommittee’s recommendation. Polyoxin D is a broad spectrum fungicide, and as such is inherently incompatible with the basic principles of organic production. There are significant concerns about the capacity of this material to negatively affect non-target organisms, including beneficial fungi, insects, and aquatic species. Moreover, there are effective alternatives available to organic farmers to control fungal pathogens. Apart from several currently allowed substances on the National List, crop rotation, crop nutrient management practices, sanitation to remove disease vectors, selection of resistant species and varieties (where applicable), beneficial antagonistic bacteria, and monitoring are effective alternatives.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of the petition to add polyoxin D to the List https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against the petition to add polyoxin D to the List
6 Votes 9 Votes
Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, and Zea Sonnabend Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Calvin Walker, Jay Feldman, Colehour Bondera, Jennifer Taylor, and Francis Thicke


 

Indole-3-butyric acid (IBA)

Current NOP Status: Prohibited in Organic Production
NOSB Recommendation: Remain Prohibited in Organic Production

Beyond Pesticides supports the outcome of the Board’s vote tto deny the petition to list IBA for the purpose of plant propagation via dipping. IBA is a plant hormone in the auxin family and is an ingredient in many commercial horticultural plant rooting products. However, this use of IBA meets none of the requirements of the Organic Food Production Act—it does not fit into a category of allowed synthetic inputs, its health and environmental effects are not sufficiently known, there is no demonstrable need for IBA since successful rooting from stem cuttings depends on numerous factors other than hormones, and finally, it is inconsistent with a system of organic and sustainable agriculture. Just as we are wary of using chemicals with hormonal effects on animals, we should also avoid widespread use of synthetic plant hormones.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of the petition to add IBA to the List https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against the petition to add IBA to the List
3 Votes 12 Votes
Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Zea Sonnabend Calvin Walker, Jay Feldman, Colehour Bondera, Jennifer Taylor, and Francis Thicke



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Inerts

Current NOP Status: Not Subject to Review Under the National List
NOSB Recommendation: Required to be Reviewed Under the National List

We congratulate the Inerts Working Group (IWG) and the Crops Subcommittee (CS) on creating a workable policy and procedure for finally meeting the legal obligation to subject so-called “inert” ingredients to the criteria of the OFPA. Ingredients of pesticide products that are labeled as “inert” are generally not physically, chemically, or toxicologically inert. They serve many functions, often increasing the toxicity of the “active” ingredients. They usually make up the largest part of the pesticide formulation. Some materials that are labeled as “inert” in one product are “active” in another product. The use of a word that commonly means “harmless” has led policy makers and the public to discount the problems that might be caused by these chemicals. We urge the IWG and CS to begin the process of reviewing these substances as soon as possible. At this point, if there are problems with the process, they are most likely to be revealed in practice.

.

 

 

Livestock Subcommittee (back to top)

Pet Food Amino Acids

 

Current NOP Status: Allowed in Organic Production
NOSB Recommendation: All but Taurine Prohibited in Organic Production

Beyond Pesticides agrees with the recommendation by the Board, with the exception of taurine. The vote against the use of pet food amino acids was unanimous, again except in the case of taurine. The Board recognizes that consumers paying a premium price for organic pet food do not want a major nutrient to come from synthetic sources. In the case of taurine for cat diets, the one amino acid recommended for approval by the Livestock Subcommittee, it is important to note that manufacturers are currently producing cat food with sufficient levels of taurine without resorting to its synthetic version.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of allowing taurine https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against allowing taurine Abstain
12 Votes 2 Votes 1 Vote
Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster, Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Calvin Walker, Colehour Bondera, and Francis Thicke Jay Feldman and Jennifer Taylor Zea Sonnabend

 

 

Handling Subcommittee: (back to top)


Sulfuric Acid

Current NOP Status: Prohibited in Organic Agriculture
NOSB Recommendation: Remain Prohibited in Organic Agriculture

We agree with the subcommittee’s recommendation to deny the petition to add sulfuric acid to the National List for use in the production of seaweed extracts. The manufacture of the material creates numerous adverse effects on the environment, as sulfuric acid is a primary contributor to acid rain, and hence acidifying natural environments. The material also has the potential to contain heavy metal residues and impurities at levels above FDA tolerances. Additionally, sulfuric acid derived seaweed extracts such as fucoidan are not essential for organic production. Sulfuric acid is a synthetic substance that is neither compatible with organic principles nor necessary in organic production.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of listing sulfuric acid https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against listing sulfuric acid
0 Votes 15 Votes
None Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster, Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Calvin Walker, Colehour Bondera, Francis Thicke, Jay Feldman, Jennifer Taylor, Zea Sonnabend

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Barley Beta Fiber

 

Current NOP Status: Prohibited in Organic Agriculture
NOSB Recommendation: Remain Prohibited in Organic Agriculture

Adding nonorganic barley beta fiber to organic food is simply not compatible with organic handling: the barley source will not be grown with any restrictions on synthetic fertilizer use or pesticide use; the processing of barley beta fiber involves conventional ethanol grown from GMO corn; alternatives are widely available; and finally, the barley beta fiber is not essential to production, particularly as the so-called health benefits are based on the nutritional value of the whole grain not just the fiber.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of listing barley beta fiber https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against listing barley beta fiber
3 Votes 12 Votes
Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Calvin Walker, Colehour Bondera, Francis Thicke, Jay Feldman, Jennifer Taylor, Zea Sonnabend

.

Sugar Beet Fiber

 

Current NOP Status: Prohibited in Organic Agriculture
NOSB Recommendation: Remain Prohibited in Organic Agriculture

We oppose the subcommittee’s recommendation to add sugar beet fiber produced by chemical-intensive methods to the National List. Sugar beet fiber is petitioned for use as a dietary fiber in organic foods. The petition would allow nonorganic sources of sugar beet fiber to be employed, as the petitioner claims that organic sources of sugar beets are not available in Europe. Manufacturing sugar beet fiber from nonorganic sources creates adverse impacts on the environment during both the production and processing stage. Production of nonorganic sugar beets uses toxic pesticides that harm the environment. As the technical review for sugar beet fiber notes, “Pesticide pollution from sugar beet production is a global concern.”

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of listing barley beta fiber https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against listing barley beta fiber
0 Votes 15 Votes
None Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster, Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Calvin Walker, Colehour Bondera,Francis Thicke, Jay Feldman, Jennifer Taylor, Zea Sonnabend

 

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DBDMH

Current NOP Status: Prohibited in Organic Agriculture
NOSB Recommendation: Remain Prohibited in Organic Agriculture

We agree with the subcommittee that the petition for DBDMH, an antimicrobial wash in meat packing, should be denied. As an antimicrobial, DBDMH is expected to have detrimental impacts to soil microorganisms, its products are toxic and tend to persist in the environment, and most importantly DBDMH is “extremely destructive to the tissue of the mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract” posing a threat to workers handling DBDMH. The material is not essential as there are numerous alternatives that are already approved for use in organics including hot water and lactic acid. In this instance it seems clear that the Precautionary Principle should be applied.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of listing DBDMH https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against listing DBDMH
0 Votes 15 Votes
None Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster, Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Calvin Walker, Colehour Bondera, Francis Thicke, Jay Feldman, Jennifer Taylor, Zea Sonnabend


.

Auxiliary/"Other" Ingredients

Current NOP Status: Allowed in Organic Agriculture
NOSB Recommendation: Change the definition of auxiliary/"other" ingredients

Beyond Pesticides respectfully disagrees with the position the Handling Subcommittee has taken on the treatment of so-called “other ingredients” –that is, ingredients in organic food that get there by virtue of being ingredients in an ingredient. Beyond Pesticides believes that there is nothing in statute that justifies making the distinction between “ingredients” and “other ingredients.” Instead, we support language barring any nonorganic ingredient of any kind in food labeled organic unless it is on the National List.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of changing the definition of auxiliary/"other" ingredient https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against changing the definition of auxiliary/"other" ingredient
15 Votes 0 Votes
Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster, Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Calvin Walker, Colehour Bondera,Francis Thicke, Jay Feldman, Jennifer Taylor, Zea Sonnabend None

 

 

Policy Development Subcommittee: (back to top)

Public Communications

Beyond Pesticides is pleased that the entire NOSB voted in favor of the proposed public communications: establishing a year-round, centralized online mechanism for stakeholders to communicate with NOSB and NOP on matters of interest and concern would greatly enhance the openness and transparency of the organic rulemaking process. Additionally, an online communication system would help the NOSB to become aware of issues that may not be on the work plan, but are of interest or concern to the organic community. We support the Policy Development subcommittee’s recommendation to amend the Board’s policy and procedures manual (PPM) as indicated in the subcommittee’s proposal.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of the public communications proposal https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against the public communications proposal
15 Votes 0 Votes
Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster, Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Calvin Walker, Colehour Bondera, Francis Thicke, Jay Feldman, Jennifer Taylor, Zea Sonnabend None

.

New Member Updates

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of the new member updates proposal https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against the public communications proposal
15 Votes 0 Votes
Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster, Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Calvin Walker, Colehour Bondera, Francis Thicke, Jay Feldman, Jennifer Taylor, Zea Sonnabend None

 

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Compliance Accreditation and Certification Subcommittee(back to top)

Calculating Percent of Organic Ingredients

We support, in general, the proposal for calculating percent of organic ingredients, and we were pleased to see an amendment passed to clarify that calculating 100% organic in not equivalent to obtaining a label of 100% organic.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRgGxXTlwunkJP-Gxa5wuRuSx8vcLglORdzT4PHAJimn0HMuAJEFA"Yes," in favor of the proposal https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSVtPkSqDbZdL5HanK5QuESuJXIzyuVGHWNVNbbbKjsxyTtxP5-Cw"No," against the proposal
15 Votes 0 Votes
Harold Austin, Carmela Beck, John Foster, Nick Maravell, Robert "Mac" Stone, Tracy Favre, Jean Richardson, Joe Dickson, Wendy Fulwider, Calvin Walker, Colehour Bondera, Francis Thicke, Jay Feldman, Jennifer Taylor, Zea Sonnabend None


 

 

About the NOSB
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 NOSB also may provide advice on other aspects of the organic program.The executive director of Beyond Pesticides is serving a five-year term (2010-2014) on the NOSB as one of three environmentalist/resource conservationist stakeholders. For more information on the history of organic agriculture and why it is the best choice for your health and the environment, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food Program Page