(Beyond Pesticides, February 7, 2012) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) is accepting public comments until April 6, 2012 on a National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) proposal to begin phasing out the use of the synthetic methionine, with a reduction in the current allowable level. Methionine is required for proper cell development and feathering in poultry and has been added in synthetic form to organic poultry feed since the inception of the National Organic Standards under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). Synthetic methionine was officially added to the National List of Allowable Synthetic substances in 2003. Beyond Pesticides and others believe that synthetic methionine should not be used in organic poultry operations and support the NOSB use reduction and phase-out.
Naturally-occurring methionine is found in plants and insects that poultry once consumed on the farm (and still do in some operations). Conventional and medium to large scale organic agricultural practices, which raise poultry primarily indoors, have limited the amount of natural methionine available in the birds’ diets. However, the new organic livestock standards adopted at the Fall 2011 NOSB meeting will improve outdoor access for poultry and other livestock, at least partially addressing this issue. Natural feed sources with a high percentage of methionine include blood meal, fish meal, crab meal, corn gluten meal, alfalfa meal, and sunflower seed meal (mammalian and poultry slaughter by-products are prohibited in the production of organic livestock). Currently there is research in the development of natural sources of methionine, including high methionine corn, microbial-produced methionine, insect meal, and alfalfa nutrient concentrate. However, these sources are not yet commercially available.
Consistent with the recommendation from the NOSB, the February 6th proposed rule would revise the annotation for methionine to reduce the maximum levels currently allowed in organic poultry production after October 1, 2012 to two pounds per ton of feed for laying and broiler chickens and three pounds per ton pounds for turkeys and all other poultry. The listing would be subject to review within five years in accordance with the OFPA provision for the sunset of National List substances. In effect, amending the methionine listing in 2012 would trigger a sunset review of synthetic methionine by the NOSB by 2017.
Beyond Pesticides’ executive director Jay Feldman serves on 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. 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.
Tell USDA to support phasing out synthetic methionine as soon as possible.Also tell USDA to end the listing of synthetic methionine as an organic feed supplement because it is illegal and inconsistent with organic principles. It is illegal because there is no category of allowed synthetic inputs that encompasses synthetic amino acids. It is inconsistent with organic principles because amino acids are food constituents (building blocks of protein, not vitamins or minerals) and should be supplied as natural feed, not as synthetic chemicals. Submit comments at Regulations.gov.