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Daily News Blog

02
Jun

Take Action: Tell the National Organic Program that Inaction on “Inert” Ingredients Is Unacceptable

(Beyond Pesticides, June 2, 2020) During the April meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), there was near-unanimous sentiment expressed by NOSB members and stakeholders that the failure of the National Organic Program at USDA to act on NOSB recommendations regarding so-called “inert” ingredients hurts organic producers and consumers and the environment. The NOSB has only one alternative left to force USDA action—denying relisting at the Fall meeting.

Tell the National Organic Program and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to initiate action to begin NOSB review of “inerts” now.

Dr. Asa Bradman, who summarized the issue for the NOSB at the Spring 2020 meeting, is an expert in environmental health, and as part of his day job, leads studies focusing on pesticides, flame retardants, metals, emerging pollutants, VOCs, indoor air quality and other contaminants. As he said at the meeting, “These are often active ingredients.”

In fact, the ingredients not listed on a label of a pesticide product—which are not fully reviewed for their adverse effects—may be the most toxic chemicals in the formulation. Recent research, Toxicity of formulants and heavy metals in glyphosate-based herbicides and other pesticides (Toxicology Reports 5, 2018), by Defarge, de Vendômois, and Séralini demonstrates the need to disclose and test all ingredients in pesticide products, as well as the full formulation. The research tested the toxicity of the herbicide glyphosate, so-called “inerts” in glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH), and the pesticide formulations–looking at toxicity to target organisms, toxicity to human cells, and endocrine-disrupting activity. In addition to the GBH products, they studied a number of other pesticides.

Although GBH products are not permitted in organic production, the results of the Defarge et al study are relevant to decisions concerning materials used in organic crops and livestock. The scientists found that for GBH products, glyphosate was not the major toxic component–to either plants or human cells–and that formulations, as well as glyphosate alone, are endocrine disruptors at low concentrations. Glyphosate alone did not show herbicidal effects on tomato plants for five days following application. Formulations that included POEA (polyethoxylated tallowamine) are the most toxic to plants and human cells, and POEA itself is highly toxic to plants and animals. GBH formulations are no more toxic to plants than the formulants (“inert” ingredients). The researchers concluded, “Hence G [glyphosate] did not appear to be the main active substance of the herbicide, but rather the formulants.”

The researchers also identified a number of other toxic substances in the products, including arsenic, chromium, cobalt, nickel, and lead. Arsenic was present in almost all samples. This research challenges the apparent assumption by NOP that “inert” ingredients are less important to review than “active” ingredients. The “active” ingredients in pesticide products used in organic production receive intense scrutiny before the NOSB allows their use. However, “inert” ingredients –which, as the Defarge et al study demonstrates, may actually be the active ingredients— have not received any scrutiny by the NOSB for compliance with OFPA criteria.

In the Beyond Pesticides report “Inert” Ingredients Used in Organic Production, we summarize what is known about the toxicity of the 127 “inerts” then known to be used in organic production, compared to the 39 synthetic active ingredients on the National List. More “inerts” than active ingredients used in organic production have been shown to be acutely toxic, neurotoxic, carcinogenic, nephrotoxic or hepatotoxic, sensitizers, endocrine disruptors, and toxic to aquatic organisms.

NOP must respond to the NOSB recommendations that “inert” ingredients used in organic production be reviewed by the NOSB according to OFPA criteria by initiating actions to carry out NOSB recommendations.

Tell the National Organic Program and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to initiate action to begin NOSB review of “inerts” now.

Letter to USDA Secretary Perdue, Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Summers , and National Organic Program Deputy Administrator

I am concerned that the National Organic Program (NOP) has not followed through with recommendations from its advisory board, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), to fully review “inert” ingredients in pesticide products used in organic production according to the standards of the Organic Foods Production Act.

During the April meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), there was near-unanimous sentiment expressed by NOSB members and stakeholders that the failure of NOP to act on NOSB recommendations regarding so-called “inert” ingredients hurts organic producers and consumers and the environment. NOP inaction leaves NOSB with only one alternative—denying relisting at the Fall meeting.

Dr. Asa Bradman, who summarized the issue for the NOSB at the Spring 2020 meeting, is an expert in environmental health, and as part of his day job, leads studies focusing on pesticides, flame retardants, metals, emerging pollutants, VOCs, indoor air quality and other contaminants. As he said at the meeting, “These are often active ingredients.”

In fact, ingredients not listed on a pesticide product label—which are not fully reviewed for their adverse effects—may be the most toxic chemicals in the formulation. Recent research, reported in “Toxicity of formulants and heavy metals in glyphosate-based herbicides and other pesticides” (Toxicology Reports 5, 2018), by Defarge, de Vendômois, and Séralini, tested the toxicity of the herbicide glyphosate, so-called “inerts” in glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH), and the pesticide formulations–looking at toxicity to target organisms, toxicity to human cells, and endocrine-disrupting activity. In addition to the GBH products, they studied a number of other pesticides.

Although GBH products are not permitted in organic production, the results of the Defarge et al study are relevant to decisions concerning materials used in organic crops and livestock. The scientists found that for GBH products, glyphosate was not the major toxic component–to either plants or human cells–and that formulations, as well as glyphosate alone, are endocrine disruptors at low concentrations. The researchers concluded, “Hence G [glyphosate] did not appear to be the main active substance of the herbicide, but rather the formulants.”

The researchers also identified a number of other toxic substances in the products, including arsenic, chromium, cobalt, nickel, and lead. This research challenges the apparent assumption by NOP that “inert” ingredients are less important to review than “active” ingredients. The “active” ingredients in pesticide products used in organic production receive intense scrutiny before the NOSB allows their use. However, “inert” ingredients–which, as the Defarge et al study demonstrates, may actually be the active ingredients—have not received any scrutiny by the NOSB for compliance with OFPA criteria.

In the report “Inert” Ingredients Used in Organic Production, Beyond Pesticides summarizes what is known about the toxicity of the 127 “inerts” then known to be used in organic production, compared to the 39 synthetic active ingredients on the National List. More “inerts” than active ingredients used in organic production have been shown to be acutely toxic, neurotoxic, carcinogenic, nephrotoxic or hepatotoxic, sensitizers, endocrine disruptors, and toxic to aquatic organisms.

NOP must respond to the NOSB recommendations that “inert” ingredients used in organic production be reviewed by the NOSB according to OFPA criteria by initiating actions to carry out NOSB recommendations.

Thank you.

 

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  • Archives

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