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NOSB Votes on Materials, Gets Updates from NOP and Deputy Secretary
This article was first printed in the July/Aug 2009 issue of the Organic Broadcaster, published by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.
On May 4-6, 2009, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) met for their spring meeting in Washington DC. Numerous materials were discussed, along with guidance recommendations to the National Organic Program (NOP) for aquaculture, and more.
Barbara Robinson, acting director of the NOP, stated that 19,000 comments were received on the Pasture Regulation. She could not give a date when this rule would be ready to be implemented into the organic regulations, but she said staff member Richard Mathews is continuing to work on this project. Shannon Nally is working on an interim rule for Origin of Livestock. This would specifically address whether new animals brought into a currently certified organic farm must be born from an organic mother who had been managed organically from last third of gestation for all farms. Farms that transitioned their dairy herd with one year of certified organic feed are currently allowed to bring in new animals that have been fed one year of organic feed but are not necessarily organic from last third of gestation. This clause is being reconsidered.
Barbara discussed the numerous NOSB recommendations given to the NOP that had have not been incorporated either into the regulation or given recognition as official guidance on the NOP website. Barbara stated that the NOP always prioritizes new and sunset materials and these other recommendations are not being reviewed due to time considerations. She suggested the NOSB “take a time-out” from making recommendations until the NOP decides how best to deal with the large (more than 60) number of recommendations that have not been dealt with by the NOP.
Barbara clarified again that expiration dates are not allowed on organic certificates, however, renewal dates and date of last inspection are allowed. For processors, the NOP is working with an industry group to develop a generic flavor affidavit with language that would make it clear that false statements on this official federal affidavit could result in a fine.
The NOSB asked about some livestock vaccines found to be GMO which are no longer allowed to be used in organic production. There is an allowance in the regulation for GMO vaccines (the only allowance for GMOs) but only if they are specifically petitioned, reviewed and put on the National List of approved substances. These GMO vaccines would need to show in their petition that there are no natural alternatives, that they are necessary and that they are consistent with the principles of organic farming. Richard Mathews suggested the NOSB discuss the current regulation and decide if they wish to recommend the regulation be changed to allow all vaccines, GMO or not.
The methionine task force is moving ahead to develop a variety of natural substitutes for synthetic methionine, with the date for when the synthetic methionine to no longer be allowed in organic chicken rations still set for October 1, 2010.
Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture (number two under Secretary Vilsack), and one of the authors of the Organic Food Production Act, came to the NOSB meeting and made it very clear that she is still very interested in organic and wants to see it flourish. She also stated she wants to increase enforcement of the regulations and have organic be incorporated throughout the USDA.
The NOSB approved a recommendation to the National Organic Program to develop a peer review program based on either of two USDA government entities The National Institute of Standards and Technology, (NIST), has more teeth and accountability than the second choice, American National Standards Institute, (ANSI), which would do audits but could not push the NOP to implement any of their recommendations. ANSI has done a previous audit with numerous recommendations for improvement. It is difficult to track if the NOP has adapted any of the recommendations, since the ANSI process is not as transparent as the NIST process. Numerous certifiers and others spoke for NIST during the public comment period. Since many NOSB recommendations have not been incorporated into the program, it is unknown if this recommendation, or any of the others other than materials, will be incorporated.
A biodiversity recommendation was also passed unanimously clearly stating that enhancing biodiversity is an important aspect of organic agriculture.
The NOSB voted on the following materials Remember, they are not allowed for use until they have been officially published in the Federal Register, which can be anywhere from 6 to 36 months from NOSB approval.
NOT APPROVED FOR CROP PRODUCTION
APPROVED FOR CROP OR LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION
NOT APPROVED FOR PROCESSING
APPROVED FOR PROCESSING
Myrrh Essential Oil and Chicory Root were approved to be placed on 205.606 as agricultural products that are not currently available as organic and could be used in the 5% nonorganic allowance in an organically labeled product. Red corn color and wheat germ were reviewed as agricultural but not commercially available and were not approved for placement on 205.606
The November meeting has the following topics on the NOSB workplan: Retail store certification, personal care products, the items allowed in an 100% organic label, hydroponic systems, inerts in pesticides, mushroom standards and food safety. In addition, the board will be looking at animal welfare, whether GMO vaccines should be allowed with no petition or review, organic beekeeping, nanotechnology and food contact substances. As always, the working documents and material information will be posted about 6 weeks before the meeting on the National Organic Program website (www.ams.usda.gov/nop) and all interested people are highly encouraged to comment and make their opinion heard. As a certified organic producer, you can make a difference.
Harriet Behar is the MOSES Outreach Specialist. She was an organic inspector and inspector trainer for many years and has an organic bedding plant and vegetable operation with her husband in Southwest WI.Return to TOP