(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2014) Help protect our organic farms and food from pesticides and genetically engineered organisms. Don’t let a weakened public process for organic standards, which looms large, roll back the progress we’ve made in growing organic production, and undermine public trust in the organic food label.The fall 2014 meeting dates for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) have been announced, and public comments are due by Tuesday, October 7, 2014. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label.
We’ve made tremendous progress in creating an organic food production system. Let’s not let USDA turn back the clock.
The 15-member 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 lifeline from government to the organic community, as it considers input from you, the public -the concerned citizens upon whom 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 that the NOSB can’t take serious action to protect organic integrity without your input!
Issues Before the NOSB for Fall 2014
Materials on the list below are either the subject of petitions or the subject of sunset review. Petitioned materials must have evidence summarized in the proposals that they meet the OFPA requirements of essentiality, no adverse effects on humans and the environment, and compatibility with organic practices. Sunset items are already on the National List, and being considered for delisting. They are subject to the same criteria, but are being considered under NOP’s new rules.
The NOSB will vote on those materials subject to “2015 Sunset Review,” but any substantive comments on them now will be considered “untimely.” We have some procedural comments on them. Although the NOSB will not vote on those materials listed under “2016 Sunset Summaries” at this meeting, comments received after October 7, 2014 will be considered untimely. The subcommittees have not published summaries of evidence concerning 2016 sunset materials.
There are also some very important issues in discussion documents and a proposal dealing with livestock vaccines made with genetically engineered organisms (“excluded methods” in organic law’s terminology). The NOSB will vote on the livestock vaccine proposal. Discussion documents are not up for a vote, but form the basis of future proposals, so this is a valuable opportunity to give input.
Make your voice heard! Help protect the integrity of organic and defend human health and the environment in the process. Check out Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong page to learn more about the issues, see our draft comments to the NOSB, and send your own comments. We ask that you submit comments on as many issues and materials as you can by the October 7, 2014 deadline. For help crafting your comments, view Beyond Pesticides’ commenting guide.
- Protect Organic Farms from Outside Contamination. Inputs into organic production should be managed in a way that protects organic crops, soil, and water from residues of pesticides and genetically engineered organisms.
- Get Harmful Inert Ingredients Out of Organic. So-called “inert” ingredients likely pose more hazards than other materials used in organic production. The NOSB must move quickly to review these potentially harmful ingredients in organic products.
- Remove Unnecessary Synthetic and Nonorganic Inputs (2015 and 2016 Sunset Materials). Urge the NOSB to use only procedures that are first disclosed to the public. That was not done for materials under review for 2015 sunset, so they should be returned to the subcommittee. The NOSB will not vote on 2016 sunset materials until spring 2015. However, now is the last chance on these materials to submit comments that will be considered by the NOSB during its deliberations. New scientific and use information brought to the Board on these materials at the next NOSB meeting in the spring will be found “untimely” and likely not considered. Materials include ferric phosphate, hydrogen chloride, and nearly a dozen others.
- Genetic Engineering Issues Urgently Need the NOSB’s Attention. Urge the NOSB to complete the task of defining the scope of “excluded methods” (term used for genetic engineering) and to use that definition as the basis for guidance on prohibition of vaccines made with excluded methods. The NOSB should not delegate this responsibility to USDA, a promoter of genetic engineering.
When You Write: Save Our Organic from Changes that Weaken the Public’s Voice
When you provide your comment, let NOSB and USDA, know that the approval of synthetic materials in organic cannot be governed by the weak process that was adopted by USDA and imposed on the NOSB on September 16, 2013. (Background)
Beyond Pesticides encourages you to submit comments in your own words. For help with this process, view our commenting guide.
Please go to Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about these and other substantive issues and provide a unique public comment.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.