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

Thank you for your comments for the Fall 2013 Meeting
*This meeting has been canceled*

Update
The October 2013 meeting of the NOSB was cancelled due to the government shutdown and has not been rescheduled, although the National Organic Program on its website indicates that it will announce "alternative plans." The next scheduled meeting of the NOSB at this time is on April 29 - May 1, 2014, St. Anthony Hotel, 300 East Travis Street, San Antonio, Texas.

The 15 member National Organic Standards 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 residents upon which 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 though, the NOSB can't take serious action to protect organic integrity without your input!

Protecting the Public’s Voice in Organic

USDA has weakened the power of the NOSB and the voice of the public on the review and approval of synthetic and other materials under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). When you provide your comment, let NOSB and USDA know the approval of synthetic materials in organic cannot be governed by the weak process that was just adopted on September 17th. Incorporate some version of the following in your comments:

Because the National Organic Program (NOP) sunset policy violates OFPA, and will therefore not subject National List materials to the required reassessment to determine re-listing in the future –and given current concerns about health and environmental impacts associated with the petitioned materials’ use and manufacture and synthetic materials under sunset review, as well as their need in organic production (essentiality), we urge NOSB members to oppose petitions for new synthetic chemical uses at this Fall 2013 NOSB meeting and until the sunset process is reinstated. We are especially concerned about the lack of public transparency and input on all decisions related to organic and the long-term viability of the USDA organic label as consumers begin to increasingly distrust the process and the lack of NOSB authority to conduct a public assessment to determine whether materials should be relisted every five years.

Issues Before the NOSB for Fall 2013

Crops Subcommittee - View Subcommittee's Minutes

NOSB Quick Links!

Full Packet of Issues Before the Board

Full Meeting Agenda

Take Action at Regulations.gov!
(Comments Due October 1, 2013!)

See all comments so far!

The Organic Foods Production Act

 

Streptomycin
Subcommittee Proposal, Beyond Pesticides' Comments, Dr. Glenn Morris, M.D., California Certified Organic Farmers Comments, Organic Produce Wholesalers Coalition Comments, Organic Trade Asssociation Comments, Organic Tree Fruit Association Comments, Westbridge Comments, Public Comment Summary

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 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, Beyond Pesticides' Comments,Public Comment Summary

Magnesium Oxide (MgO) has been petitioned for use under §205.601 Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production. Specifically, the petition states “Magnesium oxide is intended to be used to control the viscosity of a clay suspension agent to prevent settling of materials suspended in water or other liquids.” The petitioner indicates they wish to use MgO for the application of finely ground humates, but the petition is written more broadly: “The substance is intended to be used in combination with other organic inputs applied as a liquid foliar on a wide variety of different agricultural, vegetable, fruit, and horticultural crops.” The Crops Subcommittee proposes to allow its use “only to control the viscosity of a clay suspension agent for humates.”

Beyond Pesticides opposes the Crops Subcommittee proposal. 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 that the new policy on sunset (78 FR 56811) and the difficulty it poses for annotations undermine the premise of continuous improvement in the statute and the rule, we believe it would be inappropriate at this time to support any listing that raises potential health, safety, and essentiality issues that may require removal or annotation in the future. For Beyond Pesticides' take on the new sunset policy, see here.
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2015 Sunset Review List - Crops Subcommittee
Review List

Although the materials below will not be reviewed and voted on until NOSB's Spring 2014 meeting, NOP is requesting that the public provide comments on these substances at the fall 2013 NOSB meeting. Your comments can help guide the NOSB's review of these materials. For sunset reviews, 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.

Aqueous Potassium Silicate (Includes Listing 1 and 2)
Review List, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Public Comment Summary

Aqueous potassium silicate is currently listed as both an insecticide and a plant disease control agent. The material's listing specifies silica required to manufacture the material must be sourced from naturally occuring sand.

Beyond Pesticides opposes 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. For example, the Crops Subcommittee should investigate the question of whether the foliar application of potassium silicate might have impacts on the nutritive value of treated foods that would exceed the impacts of silica obtained by the plant from natural soils. Furthermore, under the new sunset policy announced by the NOP, unless the Crops Subcommittee proposes not to relist aqueous potassium silicate, it will not be reviewed and considered by the full board as required by OFPA. We encourage the Crops Subcommittee to propose that this substance not be relisted.
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Sodium Carbonate Peroxyhydrate (SCP)
Review List, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Public Comment Summary

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. It has been found by the NOSB not to meet the OFPA criteria of essentiality, compatibility with organic production, and no impacts on human health and the environment. It was added to the National List as an alternative to copper sulfate in rice, but there is no evidence that it has been adopted or is effective for that use. There are also concerns about the potential for the material's use to cause a build-up of sodium in soils. Additionally, although a previous technical report indicated low toxicity to birds and bees, the product's label indicates that the substance is toxic to birds and "highly toxic" to bees/ Furthermore, under the new sunset policy 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 OFPA. We encourasge the Crops Subcommittee to propose that this substance not be relisted.
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Sulfurous Acid
Review List, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Public Comment Summary

Sulfurous acid is currently allowed for use in organic production as a plant or soil amendment. The material is used to reduce excessive alkalinity in soil within arid environments.

Beyond Pesticides opposes the relisting of sulfurous acid. There are potential adverse impacts that have not been evaluated by the NOSB. For instance, there is evidence that sulfurous acid adversely impacts soil microbial health. There are also questions whether the "need" of sulfurous acid reflects unsustainable farming practices.Furthermore, under the new sunset policy announced by the NOP, unless the Crops Subcommittee (CS) proposes not to relist sulfurous acid, it will not be reviewed and considered by the full board as required by OFPA. We encourage the Crops Subcommittee to propose that this substance not be relisted.
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Research Priorities
Subcommittee Proposal, Beyond Pesticides' Comments, California Certified Organic Farms Comments, Organic Produce Wholesalers Coalition Comments, Organic Trade Association Comments, Public Comment Summary

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, Beyond Pesticides' Comments (See #1), Organic Trade Association Comments, Public Comment Summary

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, Beyond Pesticides' Comments (See #2), Organic Trade Association Comments, Public Comment Summary

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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Conflict of Interest
Subcommittee Proposal, Beyond Pesticides Comments, NOP Conflict of Interest Statement, Organic Trade Association Comments, Public Comment Summary

The Organic Foods Production Act requires that NOSB members with diverse backgrounds are recruited to provide balance to the NOSB. NOSB members are appointed to represent the viewpoints of organic farmers, consumers, environmentalists, retailers, processors, certifiers, and scientists. While actions of board members are expected to reflect the interests of the group they represent, a conflict of interest policy is needed to require that NOSB members disclose personal interests that might affect their judgment concerning issues before the board. Public comment and the Policy Development Subcommittee (PDS) favor a policy requiring public disclosure and NOSB decisions on whether conflicts require recusal. The NOP has not allowed the NOSB to bring such proposals to the board for consideration, so the recommendations included in the PDS proposal reflect the policy required by the NOP, dated March 29, 2013. The NOP policy requires disclosure of interests only to the NOP, which makes the decision concerning conflicts.

Beyond Pesticides believes that the board-based proposal provides clearer guidance to the COI process and left determinations less to the discretion of the NOP. We support a procedure that requires disclosure of interests to the full board and the public, rather than only the NOP, in the belief that decision making of a board of representatives requires input from all perspectives, but also the recognition by other Board members of the perspectives from which differing opinions come.

We also believe that the COI proposal should be evenhanded in recognizing that stakeholders may and often do have a special but not personal financial interest in a Board decision. In addition to not being adequately transparent, the NOP is requiring a COI policy that is not evenhanded because it holds board members employed by public interest nonprofit organizations to a higher COI standard than board members who are employed by for-profit companies. In this respect, employees in a company that would benefit economically from a Board decision are not asked to recuse themselves, while those who work for organizations supported by contributors with an economic interest in Board decisions are. Overall, the discretion afforded the NOP to make these decisions without clear uniform criteria will create public distrust and hurt the integrity of the organic label.
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Administrative Updates
Subcommittee Proposal, Beyond Pesticides' Comments, Public Comment Summary

The Policy Development Subcommittee (PDS) is proposing to update and revise various administrative components of the PPM, including organization, formatting, sentence structure, grammar and syntax.

Beyond Pesticides cannot support the proposal of the Policy Development Subcommittee concerning administrative changes to the Policy and Procedures Manual (PPM). We cannot determine from the proposal as presented what changes are actually being proposed by this motion, and whether they are, in fact, “administrative” rather than substantive. The Board should insist upon a red-lined version showing proposed administrative changes before voting. The text with administrative changes should not include “miscellaneous changes” addressed in a separate motion.
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Miscellaneous Updates
Subcommittee Proposal, Beyond Pesticides' Comments, Public Comment Summary

The Policy Development Subcommittee is proposing to update and revise various sections of the NOSB's Policy and Procedures Manual, including the Advisory Board Specialist job duties, election of officers, task force appointments, procedures for completing Subcommittee proposals and miscellaneous procedures.

Beyond Pesticides supports the proposed miscellaneous changes to the Policy and Procedures Manual (PPM). In particular, we agree with the change that distinguishes the jobs of Advisory Board Specialist and Designated Federal Official.
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Guidance on Retail Certification
Subcommittee Discussion Document, Clarification of Marketing for Voluntary Retail Certification, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Organic Trade Association Comments, Public Comment Summary

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 Discussion Document, Beyond Pesticides Comments, California Certified Organic Farmers Comments, Oregon Tilth Comments, Public Comment Summary

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
Subcommittee Discussion Document, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Comments from the National Organic Coalition, International Organic Inspectors Association Comments, Oregon Tilth Comments, Organic Produce Wholesalers Coalition Comments, Public Comment Summary

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.
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Ammonium Hydroxide
Subcommittee Proposal, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Richard Theuer Comments, Public Comment Summary

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.

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.
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Glycerin
Subcommittee Proposal, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association Comments, Organic Trade Association Comments, Oregon Tilth Comments, Public Comment Summary

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.
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Polyalkylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether (PGME)
Subcommittee Discussion Document, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Public Comment Summary

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.
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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 Spring 2014 meeting, NOP is requesting that the public provide comments on these substances at the fall 2013 NOSB meeting. Your comments can help guide the NOSB's review of these materials. For sunset reviews, 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.

Gellan Gum
Review List, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Association for Dressings and Sauces Comments, International Food Additives Council Comments, Juice Products Association Comments, Public Comment Summary

Gellan gum is currently listed as a non-organic 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 OFPA, and
would be acting without adequate transparency and public input. We encourasge the Handling Subcommittee to propose that this substance not be relisted.

Tragacanth Gum
Review List, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Association for Dressings and Sauces Comments, Public Comment Summary

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. 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 OFPA and basic standards of transparency.

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. We encourasge the Handling Subcommittee to propose that this substance not be relisted.

Marsala and Sherry
Review List, Beyond Pesticides Comments, Public Comment Summary

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 OFPA. We encourasge the Handling Subcommittee to propose that this substance not be relisted.

Methionine in Organic Poultry Feed
Subcommittee Proposal, Beyond Pesticides Comments, BC Natural Chicken Comments, California Certified Organic Farmers Comments, Coleman Natural Food Comments, Draper Valley Farms Comments, Kehers Sunrise Farm Comments, Methionine Task Force Comments, Oregon Tilth Comments, The Country Hen Comments, Public Comment Summary

Synthetic methionine is added to poultry feed. The current allowance is part of a step-down phase out of its use. The current listing for methionine on the National List sets a maximum level in feed. This proposal requests that methionine (MET) rates be expressed as an average per ton of feed over the life of the flock. The subcommittee says, “Overall usage of MET will be lowered. Producers can only add MET to the average cap, not consistently add MET at the maximum rate.” It also says, “Under this recommendation, producers would be able to exceed the above levels on a particular formulation, provided that there was an offsetting formulation below the level, such that the average inclusion rate of 100% synthetic MET over the entire life cycle of the flock was below the allowed maximum level.”

Beyond Pesticides opposes the use of synthetic methionine in poultry feed. Poultry with adequate outdoor access do not need synthetic methionine. In addition, we oppose this proposal, which may increase the amount of synthetic methionine used. The subcommittee is mistaken when they say, "Overall usage of MET will be lowered. Producers can only add MET to the average cap, not consistently add MET at the maximum rate.” Producers could add MET at the maximum rate consistently under the proposal. Moreover, if they use a batch of feed with lower MET, they could make up for it later by adding more.
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Acidified Sodium Chlorite
Subcommittee Proposal, Beyond Pesticides Comments, AgriSystems International Comments, Public Comment Summary

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. Because of this, the Livestock Subcommittee does not recommend the addition of Acidified Sodium Chlorite because it is not essential for organic production.
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Aquaculture Materials
Links to Subcommittee Proposals: Chlorine, Tocopherols, Vitamins, & Trace minerals
Beyond Pesticides Comments, Aquaculture Working Group Comments, Oregon Tilth Comments, Food and Water Watch Comments, Public Comment Summary

Sample Comment

All of the materials petitioned for inclusion to the National List in 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.

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 trace 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.
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NOP-NOSB Collaboration
Beyond Pesticides 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 Comments, California Certified Organic Farmers Comments, Public Comment Summary

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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We would like to thank the following people who took the time to write comments on all or most issues before the NOSB: Allan Peterson, Frances Dunham, Susan Von Struensee, Regina Land, Charlie Williams, Anne Huibregste, and Robina Suwol.


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.

 

 

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