NOSB 2010 Fall Report
Twice a year the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meets to receive public comment. Here is a summary of topics, discussion, and decisions.
October 25 - 28, 2010
Twice a year the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meets to receive public comment, discuss and vote on committee recommendations, and handle Board administrative matters. The following is a summary of the meeting topics, discussion and decisions from the fall 2010 meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. A complete transcript of the meeting will eventually be posted on the National Organic Standard’s Board Website:
National Organic Program and USDA Organic Agriculture Report
Miles McEvoy, the Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program addressed the NOSB on the first day of the meeting. Highlights of the report included:
- NOP priorities, accomplishments, strategic plan, new projects, & NOP Handbook
- Office of Inspector General NOP Audit
- New OIG Audit evaluating whether organic milk meets NOP requirements
- NOP structure and budget
- Implementing and enforcing access to pasture final rule
- Implementing NOSB Recommendations
- Draft Guidance (existing and under development)
- Rulemaking priorities
- ‘Age of Enforcement’ actions
- Response to NOSB April Recommendations
- Clarification that GMO Vaccines are not allowed
- Update on the Classification of Materials
- NOSB request to review sodium nitrate
- Guidelines for removing substances (non-sunset) from allowed inputs list
Following Miles was Mark Lipson, USDA Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor. Mark’s newly created position, as described in his report, is one of many efforts being made to integrate organic into the USDA by facilitating inter-agency coordination. Mark highlighted several efforts such as the establishment of a department-wide Organic Working Group, establishing and implementing international tracking codes, and the USDA’s Strategic Plan, which includes the goal of increasing certified operations by 25% in 2015. Also central to Mark’s presentation was a report on the efforts and considerations being made to incorporate organic into the Farm Bill. He provided current figures on funding for organic research, as well as statistics on certification cost-share, noting that less than half of the funding allocated for cost-share in 2010 was used and that efforts need to be made to improve participation in the cost-share program. And finally Mark announced the plans for an Organic Systems Research Conference March 16-18, 2011 in Washington D.C
NOSB Recommendations and Decisions
Material petitioned as an inert in pesticide formulations. Motion to classify as a synthetic. Passed. Motion to list on § 205.601. Failed. Product will not be added to the National List.
Material petitioned as an inert in pesticide formulations. The petitioner requested during public comment to defer the vote until further information could be submitted. The board agreed to defer the vote due to potential changes to inert review policy. Withdrawn.
Material petitioned as an inert in pesticide formulations. By-product of the paper wet milling process. The committee determined that this product does have active qualities. Motion to classify as a synthetic. Passed. Motion to list on § 205.601. Failed. Product will not be added to the National List.
Material petitioned as an inert in pesticide formulations. Motion to classify as a synthetic. Passed. Motion to list on §205.601. Failed. Product will not be added to the National List.
Sunset 2012 Reaffirmation
Chlorine materials and copper materials were deferred until the April 2011 meeting. Committees are waiting on the Technical Review before moving forward.
Motion to reaffirm votes of April 2010 recommendation: Passed. Materials will be re-listed on the National List.
EPA List 4 Sunset
Committee recommendation allows EPA List 4 materials to be re-listed as a static list. The National Organic Program and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will collaborate regarding the future review of EPA List 4 materials. Motion to relist EPA List 4 Inerts on § 205.601. Passed. Materials will be re-listed on the National List.
Corn Steep Liquor Classification Recommendation
In an action memorandum dated April 23, 2010, the NOP requested that the NOSB review Corn Steep Liquor (CSL), a by-product of the corn wet milling process, and determine whether the product is synthetic or nonsythetic. Historically this product has been used and approved as a nonsynthetic input used for making liquid fertilizers. Based on the results of a technical review received by the NOSB crops committee in February 2010, the majority of the committee recommended that it be classified as synthetic due to the use of a non-allowed synthetic (sulfur dioxide) resulting in a chemical change. The minority of the committee argued that it should be classified as nonsynthetic because the chemical change is largely the result of lactic acid fermentation and the chemical change (breaking of the disulfide bonds in the protein structure) does not result in a new substance. The minority pointed to evidence that the sulfur dioxide is used to prevent putrefaction of the corn rather than create a chemical change.
After days of controversial discussion and very informative public comment, the Crops Committee voted to withdraw its vote because new information was received during public comment that needed to be examined prior to a final recommendation. One commenter, a manufacturer of CSL representing the counter-current method used today in the United States, provided compelling information that the sulfur dioxide is not responsible for cleaving the disulfide bonds. A motion to present the minority opinion (favoring the classification of CSL as non-synthetic) as a main motion was put forth during the sunset discussion on cornstarch. After much discussion and debate, the motion was withdrawn. CSL has thus been placed on the Crops Committees’ work plan for the next NOSB meeting.
Petitioned Material Recommendation--Formic Acid
Material was petitioned as mite control in honeybees. Technical review of this material has not been completed, but the board felt that there was enough information to move forward with a vote. Motion to classify material as a synthetic. Passed. Motion to list on § 205.603. Passed. Material will be added to the National List as a pesticide for use only within honeybee hives.
Sunset 2012 Reaffirmation on § 205.603 and § 205.604
Motion to affirm April 2010 and relist sunset 2012 materials. Passed. Materials will be re-listed to the National List.
The committee amended the initial recommendation to: 1) insert “if used” prior to foundation; 2) change GMO crops to “crops produced using excluded methods”; and 3) added requirement to maintain records of all health care products used. Motion to approve Committee recommendation. Passed. Recommendation was forwarded to the NOP for further action.
Animal Healthcare Products/Clarifying § 205.238(c)(2) Recommendation
Recommendation was to allow the producer of an organic livestock operation to administer animal “drugs” in the absence of illness for pain relief and as a preventative measure. There was concern that the proposed recommendation may leave room for materials not on the National List to be used. The document was amended as follows – at the end of the “Discussion” section: The Livestock Committee intends the practice and enforcement of this recommendation to be consistent with organic regulations 7 CFR 205 et. Seq. The NOP stated that they will need to review this, as the wording is not in line with the OFPA regulatory language in 6509(d)(1)(c). Motion to approve recommendation. Passed.
Stocking Rates Discussion Document
Discussion document gave specific stocking densities to all species of livestock. The Livestock Committee stated that the document might best serve as industry guidance. At this time it does not take into account tie stalls and stanchions. There was much discussion on access to the outdoors for poultry and whether porches complied with the requirements. The recommendation was taken back to committee for further review.
Animal Handling, Transit, and Slaughter Discussion Document
The committee will take into account the public comment. The current discussion document would prohibit Halal and Kosher slaughter. It was also noted during public comment that stunning mechanism required would not work for bison. The committee in further review will address these issues.
Pectin Low and High Methoxy Petition
Three recommendations were made on this topic. 1) Low-methoxy pectin should be removed from § 205.605(b) to 205.606; 2) high methoxy should be removed from § 205.606: and 3) pectin, non-amidated forms only should be added to § 205.606. The main difference between the low and high methoxy is the length of extraction time, and under such circumstances it’s possible that both could be sourced organically. Amidated forms are not typically used and they prohibited in the EU. Based on these considerations the NOSB recommended that pectin, low- and high-methoxy forms, be listed as nonsynthetic agricultural ingredients on § 205.606, and amidated forms prohibited.
Motion that pectin, low-methoxy, non-amidated be classified as nonsynthetic, agricultural passed along with the motion to accept the three recommendations described above.
Committee recommended withdrawal of the recommendation based on the petitioner’s request.
Yeast (Petition to move from § 205.605 to § 205.606)
The NOSB received a petition to move yeast from its current classification as “nonagricultural – nonsynthetic” to § 205.606 of the National List where it would be classified as an allowed non-organic “agricultural” ingredient when commercially unavailable in organic form. The debate on whether yeast should be classified as ‘agricultural’ has been ongoing since 2004. In general the NOSB, NOP and organic community supports using organic yeast when it’s available, however a general classification as “agricultural” could cause undo hardship on the livestock sector since commercial availability does not apply to agricultural commodities fed to livestock. In other words livestock producers would be required to feed livestock organic yeast whether it’s available or not, while certified handlers could use non-organic forms when quality, quantity or form were not suitable. The NOSB’s recommendation provided a compromise by retaining yeast on § 205.605 as nonagricultural but annotating it with a requirement to use organic when it’s commercially available (organic baking yeast is currently available) and used for human consumption.
After public comment, the committee added the following to the recommendation:
“It is the intent of the Handling Committee that this recommendation apply to all yeast products used as ingredients in organic food products, including, but not limited to, autolysate, bakers, brewers, nutritional and smoked as listed in the previous recommendation.
Motion to relist yeast on § 205.605 with the new annotation passed (Yes-13 no-0 recuse-1):
“When used as food or fermentation agent, yeast must be organic if its end use is for human consumption. Nonorganic yeast may be used when equivalent organic yeast s not commercially available. Growth on petrochemical substrate and sulfite waste liquor is prohibited. For smoked yeast, nonsynthetic smoke flavoring process must be documented.
Hops-Petition to Remove from 205.606
The NOSB received a petition to remove hops from § 205.606. The petitioner(s) and several commenters attested that organic hops are available but brewers are not using them because of their listing on § 205.606. Some commenters stated that they would not be in a position to use or make hops available tomorrow, but they would be able to with an adequate transition time. In order to respond to public comment and the availability of organic hops while providing for a seasonal transition period, the Board recommended the removal of hops from the National List on January 1, 2013.
Motion to remove from 205.606 on January 1, 2013 passed.
Glycerides (Mono and Di) Sunset 2012 Reconsideration
There were both public comment in favor of removing and retaining mono- and di-glycerides listings on the National List. Comments in favor of retaining it noted that organic ingredients are available but they could not completely replace mono- and di- glycerides in food processing.
Motion to relist glycerides (mono and di) to § 205.605(b) passed.
Colors Annotation Recommendation
Agricultural colors are currently listed on § 205.606 and therefore allowed in “organic” and “made with” products when commercially unavailable in organic form. When the NOSB initially reviewed colors for addition to § 205.606 in 2007, they only reviewed forms that were produced using mechanical/physical processing methods and/or were water or oil extracted. Additionally the colors were not formulated with any synthetic adjuvants. Since that time it’s come to the Board’s attention that there may be confusion with respect to the materials and processing methods that are allowed in the manufacturing of colors listed on § 205.606. The Handling Committee therefore recommended that an annotation be placed on colors to clarify the conditions of their allowance.
Motion to change colors annotation to Colors derived from agricultural products—must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative. Yes-14 no-0
Section § 205.605(a), 205.605(b), § 205.606 Sunset 2012
The Board unanimously passed all materials for relisting in their respective sections. A working group on flavors will be developed to assess moving some flavors to § 205.606.
Nutrient Vitamins and Minerals Discussion
The NOP asked the NOSB to reevaluate their 1995 Recommendation on the allowance of nutrients vitamins and minerals as per the § 205.605 listing. The annotation currently placed on the § 205.605 listing is not the same as the annotation recommended by the Board. The 1995 recommendation allowed for nutrient vitamins, minerals and accessory nutrients when required by law or recommended for enrichment and fortification by independent professional associations. The current annotations as written by the NOP allows for the use of nutrient vitamins and minerals when used in accordance with 21 CFR 104.20 the FDA food fortification policy. The NOP clarified earlier this year after consultation with the FDA that the only vitamins and minerals allowed are the ones specifically listed in that food fortification policy. As a result the allowance of vitamins and minerals appears to be much more restrictive and static than was originally intended by the Board.
In response, the NOSB created a discussion document outlining a number of questions that seek to update their thinking on the science of supplementation of foods that carry the organic label, and gain a better understanding of the legal framework within which the National List must take its place.
Widespread agreement was expressed by the Board and the public regarding the need for the prohibition of nanotechnology in organic. Disagreement existed, however, regarding how this should best be accomplished. Many commentors stated that the only way to ensure that nanotechnology would never be allowed in organic was to establish it as a prohibited method in the same section of the regulation where excluded methods (GMOs) are prohibited. Such commenters argued that simply classifying nanotechnology as synthetic left the door open to potential inclusion on the National List. Others made the case that classifying nanotechnology as synthetic would be sufficient to prohibit its use in organic production. In nearly all cases, commenters expressed their support for taking immediate action on nanotechnology, rather than delaying such action until a symposium on the topic had occurred.
The Materials Committee revised its original guidance document to more clearly articulate its proposal that nanotechnology be considered synthetic and thus prohibited in organic agriculture, and that the NOP take immediate action to enforce this prohibition.
Motion to accept the guidance document and forward to the NOP for action; yes-14, no-0
Certification, Accreditation, and Compliance Committee (CACC)
“Made with organic”
In attempt to communicate the merit of the “made with organic (specified ingredient(s))” labeling category and increase its shelf presence, the CACC committee recommended an optional label statement that could be used on the front or principal display panel of “made with” products. The recommended statement was “Certified to USDA Regulations”. Commenters were largely opposed to the recommendation out of concern that it would only create further confusion. Commenters felt that the language was too vague, and efforts to further educate consumers on the existing labeling categories would best fulfill the intent behind the recommendation.
A motion to withdraw the “made with” recommendation passed by a vote of 11-0. This issue has been added to the CACC’s work plan for the next NOSB meeting.
Clarifying Limitations of Section 205.101(b)
§ 205.101 describes the conditions in which certain types of operations are exempt from certification. § 205.101(b) describes operations that receive and sell products in packaged or otherwise enclosed containers and do not open those products or process the products while they are in their possession. Such operations do not need to be certified. The CACC proposed that clarification on the limitations of this portion of the Rule is needed because some uncertified brokers, distributors and traders are dealing bulk commodities such as grain or hay under this exemption and it’s this very area where we are seeing the misrepresentation of organic commodities. Commenters generally supported the recommendation in its efforts to close an existing regulatory loophole. Others were concerned about the unintended consequences it might have on the transportation of commodities between two certified operators as well as the recommendation’s potential to generate additional costs to organic farmers.
The NOSB recommended that the NOP issue guidance “clearly articulating the limitations of
§ 205.101(b)(1) and the need for operations hauling bulk commodities such as hay or grains to immediately seek organic certification or be subject to appropriate enforcement activity.”
NOSB voted 12-1 (1 abstention) in favor of this recommendation.
Policy Development Committee
Establishing Ad Hoc Committees
This recommendation allows for the formation of Ad Hoc Committees comprised of NOSB members when deemed necessary to carry out critical work. NOSB voted 14-0 to accept an amended version on the recommendation including the following revised language: “Ad hoc committees can be dissolved at the request of the NOSB chairperson. The position of the Ad Hoc committee chair is a non-voting member of the Executive Committee.”
This recommendation proposed changes to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)/National Organic Program (NOP) collaboration guidance in Section V of the PPM.
NOSB voted 14-0 to pass this recommendation.
Sunset Review Process
The Policy Development Committee revised its original recommendation, eliminating item 7 and revising item 4 to include the following language: “The reviewing NOSB committee provides its recommendation to the full Board and the public no less than 60 days prior to the Board meeting which would include the following: i) a simple motion to remove, add, or amend a restricting or clarifying annotation (if applicable) ii) a simple motion to renew the existing listing.
NOSB voted 14-0 to pass the amended recommendation.
Member Updates, New Officers, and Upcoming
The meeting concluded with creation of committee work plans and selection of new officers. The new officers are:
Tracy Miedems, Chair
Joe Dixon, Vice Chair
Wendy Fulwider, Secretary
Oregon Tilth expresses our great appreciation for the excellent service of the following outgoing Board members:
Kevin Engelbert (Organic Producer)
Daniel Giacomini (Consumer/Public Interest)
Joseph Smillie (Certifier Rep)
Jeffrey Moyer (Organic Producer)
Jennifer Hall (Consumer/Public Interest)
The next NOSB meeting will be held in Seattle, WA, April 26th – 29th, 2011
Meeting information can be accessed at:
To learn more about the NOSB and read Oregon Tilth’s public comments visit: http://tilth.org/organic-resources/regulatory-and-trade-resources/national-organic-standards-board-nosb