s
s s

FacebookTwitterYoutubeRSS

spacer s spacer

Meeting of the National Organic Standards Board

April 26-29, 2011 - Seattle, WA

Here you will find the results of the voting at the Spring 2011 NOSB meeting. You can read the original recommendations from the separate committees on each of the issues as well a summary of the implications for organic food and farmers of each final vote. The full voting results, tallied by member are also included.

Current NOSB Members and Voting Key

  • Colehour Bondera (CB), organic farmer, Hawaii
  • Steve DeMuri (SD), handler, Campbell Soup Company
  • Joe Dickson (JD), retailer, Whole Foods Markets
  • Tina Ellor (TE), environmentalist, Phillips Mushroom Farms
  • Jay Feldman (JFe), environmentalist, Beyond Pesticides
  • Barry Flamm (BF), environmentalist, consultant
  • John Foster (JFo), handler, Earthbound Farms
  • Wendy Fulwider (WF), organic farmer, CROPP/Organic Valley Family of Farms
  • Katrina Heinze (KH), scientist, General Mills
  • Nick Maravell (NM), organic farmer, Maryland
  • Tracy Miedema (TM), consumer/public interest, Earthbound Farm
  • Mac Stone (MS), certifier, Kentucky
  • Jennifer Taylor (JT), consumer/public interest
  • C. Reuben Walker (CW), consumer/public interest, Southern Univeristy Agricultural Research and Extension Center

Full biographical information for each of the members can be found on the USDA website.

Crops Committee

Handling Committee

Livestock Committee

Materials Committee

 


Tetracycline

Proposed Action

The Crops Committee recommended that tetracycline be allowed to “sunset,” or expire from being approved for use in organic production. After a great deal of discussion (see below), the recommendation was revised to extend the expiration date by two years.

See details and Beyond Pesticides’ recommended actions on antibiotics.
See Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

Vote to extend expiration date to October 21, 2014:

Yes – 13

No – 1 (JT)

Summary

Organic growers of apples and pears can continue to use tetracycline to control fireblight disease until October 21, 2014. At a previous board meeting, tetracycline was given an expiration date of October 21, 2012, due to the board’s belief that the use of antibiotics is inconsistent with organic production principles. For the spring 2011 meeting, a petition was submitted to remove this expiration date and allow use of tetracycline to continue past 2012. Although the committee recommended against adopting this petition, there was a great deal of push back from organic fruit growers, who use tetracycline to fight disease in apple and pear trees. A compromise was reached whereby the expiration date would be pushed back two years, to October 21, 2014 and the Crops Committee would develop a transition plan including an increased push for research on alternatives.

Streptomycin

Proposed Action

Like tetracycline, the only other antibiotic on the National List, the Crops Committee recommended that use of streptomycin be allowed to expire. After significant discussion (see tetracycline), the recommendation was revised to add an annotation to streptomycin, giving it an expiration date of October 21, 2014 (the same as tetracycline).

See details and Beyond Pesticides’ recommended actions on antibiotics.
See Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

Vote to add annotation and expiration date:

Yes – 13

No – 1 (KH)

Summary

Along with tetracycline, streptomycin can continue to be used by organic growers of apples and pears to control fireblight disease until October 21, 2014. As with tetracycline, there was a great deal of discussion around the committee recommendation and significant push from growers to not discontinue use. Eventually, the compromise was reached adding the expiration date and the transition plan (see tetracycline).

Copper Materials (Copper Sulfate & Fixed Coppers)

Proposed Action

The Crops Committee recommendation proposed to allow use of copper to continue for controlling plant diseases, but to require documentation of periodic testing to ensure that the copper does not build up in the soil.

See details and Beyond Pesticides’ recommended action.
See Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

Vote to accept annotation requiring documentation:

Yes – 6 (NM, BF, JFe, JT, MS, CB)

No – 8 (WF, TE, CW, SD, KH, JFo, JD, TM)

Vote to keep copper materials on the National List in their current form:

Yes – Unanimous

Summary

Copper compounds can continue to be used by organic farmers to fight disease, as long as the substance does not build up in the soil. The board voted down the proposal to require documentation of reduced build up due to some board member’s beliefs that the current annotation is sufficient to reduce accumulation and that certifiers are verifying this at the individual farm level.

Corn Steep Liquor

Proposed Action

A majority of the Crops Committee recommended finding that corn steep liquor (CSL) is nonsynthetic, and thus, automatically allowed for use in organic production. A significant minority of the committee, however, strongly criticized this recommendation and advocated for finding CSL synthetic, due to scientific analysis they had received categorizing the CSL production process as constituting chemical change to a form other than its natural form.

See details and Beyond Pesticides’ recommended actions.
See Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

Vote to find CSL nonsynthetic:

Yes – 5 (WF, TE, SD, KH, JD)

No – 6 (NM, CW, BF, JFe, JT, CB)

Abstain – 1 (MS)

Recuse – 2 (JFo, TM)

Summary

The board did not find that CSL is a nonsynthetic substance. Confusingly, according to staff at the USDA National Organic Program, this does not constitute a finding by the board that CSL is synthetic. Such a finding would require a separate, direct vote. Though seemingly esoteric on the surface, the CSL issue became highly controversial because of its implications for classification of future materials as synthetic or natural. The debate revolved around the board’s definition of “synthetic” and how to determine whether a material is synthetic, which is an issue at the very heart of organic principles that seek to minimize synthetic inputs.

Nickel

Proposed Action

The Crops Committee, responding to a petition to add nickel to the National List as a soil micronutrient, recommended against allowing its use due to concerns over toxicity, carcinogenicity, and whether or not it was truly necessary.

See details and Beyond Pesticides’ recommended actions.
See Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

Vote to add nickel to National List:

Yes – 5 (KH, MS, JFo, JD, TM)

No – 9 (WF, TE, NM, CW, BF, JFe, SD, JT CB)

Summary

Nickel remains prohibited for use in organic production due to the board’s concerns over its status as a known human carcinogen.

Pheromones

Proposed Action

The Crops Committee originally recommended adding an annotation to the listing of pheromones which would have limited approved pheromone products to only passive dispensers (as opposed to sprays) and clarified that only approved inert ingredients could be used to formulate pheromone products. However, this recommendation was withdrawn prior to the full board vote due to some member’s beliefs that the inerts section was redundant.

See details and Beyond Pesticides’ recommended actions.
See Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

Vote to keep pheromones on the National List in their current form:

Yes – Unanimous

Summary

Pheromones will continue to be approved for use by organic farmers without restriction. The issue of inert ingredients is still being evaluated by the NOP Inerts Working Group.

Sulfur Dioxide

Proposed Action

The Crops Committee recommended removing sulfur dioxide from the National List as an ingredient in smoke bombs to control rodents due to its concerns that the ingredient is not registered by the EPA as a rodenticide, but that there are other materials that are registered for such uses. It concluded that it was possible the wrong active ingredient for smoke bombs was listed.

Final Board Action

Vote to relist sulfur dioxide on the National List:*

Yes – 9 (WF, TE, NM, CW, SD, KH, JFo, JD, TM)

No – 5 (BF, JFe, JT, MS, CB)

*According to the Organic Foods Production Act, any “decisive” NOSB vote requires a 2/3 majority to pass. With 14 members on the board, 2/3 would be 10 members, thus, 9 yes votes do not result in passage of the motion.

Summary

Sulfur dioxide as an ingredient in underground smoke bombs will be taken off the National List and no longer be allowed for use by organic farmers to control rodents.

Ethylene Gas

Proposed Action

The Crops Committee recommended against continuing to allow ethylene gas to be used for induction of pineapple flowering due to information on alternatives as well as concerns that use of a synthetic material to induce unnatural flowering is inconsistent with organic principles.

Final Board Action

Vote to relist ethylene on the National List:

Yes – 10 (WF, TE, NM, CW, SD, KH, MS, JFo, JD, TM)

No – 4 (BF, JFe, JT, CB)

Summary

The recommendation was rejected, and ethylene will continue to be allowed for use by organic farmers to induce pineapple flowering.

Sodium Nitrate

Proposed Action

The Crops Committee recommended removing the annotation currently allowing use of sodium nitrate as a nitrogen source. Sodium is currently on the National List as a prohibited natural material, but with an annotation allowing farmers to use it for up to 20% of their crop’s total nitrogen. Thus, removing the annotation would fully and completely prohibit the material.

See details and Beyond Pesticides’ recommended actions.
See Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

Vote to remove annotation and prohibit use:

Yes – 10 (WF, TE, NM, CW, BF, JFe, JT, MS, CB, JD)

No – 2 (SD, KH)

Recuse – 2 (JFo, TM)

Summary

Sodium nitrate will no longer be allowed for use by organic farmers to source any of their crops’ nitrogen. The board voted this way due to beliefs that direct feeding of crops with nitrogen is inconsistent with the organic ideal of cultivating healthy soils full of essential plant nutrients, as well as out of concern for its potential to leach into groundwater due to its high solubility and its status as a nonrenewable, mined substance.

Chlorine Materials

Proposed Action

The Crops Committee recommended a change in the annotation to chlorine materials in order to clarify proper use procedures and limits.

See details and Beyond Pesticides’ recommended actions.
See Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

Vote to change annotation:

Yes – Unanimous

Summary

Chlorine materials will remain approved for use by organic farmers, but with the limitation that residual chlorine concentrations in water should not exceed the disinfectant limits specified in the Safe Drinking Water Act. Chlorine can be used up to the maximum labeled rates when disinfecting or sanitizing tools and equipment or in the production of edible sprouts.

Miscellaneous Materials

The following materials were relisted in their current form unanimously (except where noted) and will remain approved for use by organic farmers:

Alcohols (ethanol & ispropanol) – as algicides, disinfectants, and sanitizers
Newspaper – as mulch and compost feedstock
Plastic mulch – as mulch, provided it is taken up at the end of the season
Vitamin D3 – as a rodenticide
Lignin Sulfonate (slight annotation change to remove redundant wording) – as a chelating agent, dust suppressant, and floatation agent
Magnesium Sulfate (one vote against - JT) – as a soil amendment with documented soil deficiency
Sodium Silicate – as a floatation agent in post harvest handling

 

Nutrient(s,) Vitamins and Minerals

Proposed Action

The Handling Committee had proposed a recommendation which would have expanded approved nutrient additives in organic food, either natural or synthetic, to include any that have been deemed nutritionally essential by bodies such as the FDA or the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Due to thousands of public comments in opposition to this recommendation as well as input from the National Organic Program regarding potential problems with the proposed recommendation, the committee withdrew the matter and will rework the recommendation for the next NOSB meeting in the fall. Thus, the final proposed motion was to reapprove nutrient vitamins and minerals as they are currently listed on the National List.

See Beyond Pesticides' comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

Vote to relist nutrient vitamins and minerals as they currently appear:

Yes – 13

No – 0

Abstain - 1 (TM)

Summary

Nutrient vitamins and minerals will remain approved for use as ingredients in processed organic foods in their current form. The Handling Committee will bring a new recommendation regarding nutrient supplementation to the fall 2011 NOSB meeting.

Attapulgite

Proposed Action

In response to a petition to the board to add attapulgite to the National List as a processing aid in the handling of oils, the Handling Committee recommended finding the material to be nonsynthetic and allowing it to be used in the handling of organic foods.

Final Board Action

Vote to classify attapulgite as nonsynthetic:

Yes – Unanimous

Vote to add to National List as allowed material:

Yes – 12

No – 1 (KH)

Abstain – 1 (CB)

Summary

Attapulgite will now be approved for use in handling of organically produced foods to aid in the processing of plant and animal oils.

Calcium Acid Pyrophosphate

Proposed Action

The Handling Committee recommended rejecting the petition to add calcium acid pyrophosphate to the National List as a leavening agent in baked goods. The committee was concerned about the use of phosphoric acid in the production process as well as about the harmful environmental effects of mining for the materials. Additionally, the committee noted the presence of sodium acid pyrophosphate and other calcium phosphates already on the National List for leavening purposes.

Final Board Action

Vote to classify material as synthetic:

Yes – 13

No – 1 (JT)

Vote to add material to National List as allowed substance:

Yes – 5 (BF, KH, JFo, JD, TM)

No – 9 (WF, TE, NM, CW, JFe, SD, JT, MS, CB)

Summary

Calcium acid pyrophosphate will remain prohibited for use in processing and handling organic foods.

Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate

Proposed Action

The Handling Committee recommended rejecting the petition to expand the approved uses of sodium acid pyrophosphate (already on the National List for use as a leavening agent in baked goods) to include its use as a sequestrant on cooked and uncooked produce. The committee was again concerned about the use of phosphoric acid in production. In addition, the committee saw no data pointing to this use of this material as being essential for organic production.

Final Board Action

Vote to classify material as synthetic:

Yes – Unanimous

Vote to add material to National List as approved substance:

No – Unanimous

Summary

Sodium acid pyrophosphate will remain approved for use by organic processors as a leavening agent in organic baked goods, but will not be allowed for any other use.

Potassium Iodide

Proposed Action

Potassium Iodide is currently allowed on the National List as an ingredient in processed organic products as both a synthetic and nonsynthetic material. This is due to the fact that there are naturally occurring forms of the substance available as well as synthetically produced forms. The committee recommended clearing up this confusion by removing the substance as an allowed synthetic, thus allowing only naturally-sourced forms of potassium iodide in organic foods.

Final Board Action

Vote to keep nonsynthetic forms on National List:

Yes – Unanimous

Vote to keep synthetic forms on National List:

No – Unanimous

Summary

Natural forms of potassium iodide will continue to be allowed as ingredients in products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic,” while use of synthetic forms of the substance will now be prohibited.

Relisted with no change in use:

Enzymes (one vote against - JT) – as nonsynthetic ingredient in processed organic foods
Tocopherols (unanimous) – as synthetic ingredient in processed organic foods, and can be derived from vegetable oil when rosemary extracts are not suitable

Livestock Recommendations

The Livestock Committee removed their recommendations from consideration after receiving numerous comments from the public and from farmers resulting in significant changes to the recommendations. The committee plans to rework the recommendations and bring them back to the full board for the fall 2011 meeting. You can read the full original recommendations below.

Materials Classification Guidance

Proposed Action

The Materials Committee developed a recommendation involving two separate motions to change the way that the board classifies materials.

The first motion was to eliminate a sentence that the committee added to the board’s definition of “chemical change” in April 2010. This definition is highly significant for evaluating whether a material is natural or synthetic due to the board’s definition of “synthetic” including any material that has gone through chemical change. The committee proposes to remove a sentence from the definition of “chemical change” which had exempted “processing” from being a method that results in chemical change. The committee still believes that processing a material should not result in its immediate classification as synthetic, but wishes to address the matter through a guidance document, rather than amending the definition.

The second motion relates to residues of synthetic substances in final organic food products. The committee ultimately adopted a recommendation that, for the purposes of definition, a “significant level” of synthetic residue on the final product is defined as “a level exceeding any applicable regulatory limits, where in effect for the material classified,” such as EPA pesticide tolerance levels.

See details and Beyond Pesticides’ recommended actions.
See Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the board.

Final Board Action

1st motion, to remove processing exemption from definition of chemical change:

Yes – Unanimous

2nd motion, to define “significant” in terms of synthetic residue:

Yes – 8 (WF, TE, CW, SD, KH, JFo, JD, TM)

No – 6 (NM, BF, JFe, JT, MS, CB)

Summary

"Processing" will no longer be specifically excluded from the board’s definition of “chemical change” as it relates to classifying a material as natural or synthetic.

Adoption of the definition of “significant” did not pass, lacking a 2/3 majority of the board. The Materials Committee will go back and rework the recommendation for the next NOSB meeting in fall 2011.