Keeping Organic Strong: Changes in organic regulations and farming practices
National standards concerning what is allowable in organic food and farming are developed by a citizen advisory board called the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service oversees the National Organic Program (NOP) and the NOSB. The NOSB is intended to be a stakeholder board, with its members coming from an array of interests throughout the organic community. Seats are provided for four farmers, two handlers, one retailer, three environmentalists, three consumers, one scientist and one certifying agent. The board is authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) 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 NOSB holds two public, multi-day meetings each year, one in the spring and one in the fall, to make its deliberations in front of the organic community and to allow the involvement of any interested stakeholders, such as farmers, consumers, and organic food companies. Public involvement is a vital part of the development of organic regulations. The NOSB needs to know what the organic community wants and expects from its food.
Making Your Voice Heard
See how your comments made a difference at the spring 2013 NOSB meeting!
Stay tuned for an overview of issues you can weigh in on at the October 2013 meeting, scheduled to be held in Louisville, Kentucky!
See our other NOSB meeting pages to read about current and past opportunities for public involvement in the development of organic standards.
The organic regulatory process provides numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on what is allowable in organic production. USDA maintains a National List, set by the NOSB, of the synthetic substances that may be used and the non-synthetic substances that may not be used in organic production and handling. OFPA and NOP regulations provide for the sunsetting of listed substances every five years and relies on public comment in evaluating their continuing uses. Sunset review, the process of reviewing substances on the National List every five years, is mandated by the Organic Foods Production Act. Under the policy, if a substance is not reviewed, it would automatically be removed from the list. To remain on the list, it must be shown that the use of such substances – (i) would not be harmful to human health or the environment; (ii) is necessary to the production or handling of the agricultural product because of the unavailability of wholly natural substitute products; and, (iii) is consistent with organic farming and handling. The public may also file a petition to amend the National List, either by removing a material currently on the list or by adding a new one. In both cases, sunset and petition, the NOSB is authorized by OFPA to determine a substance’s status.
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.