(Beyond Pesticides, April 5, 2011) Do you care about synthetics in your organic food? How about antibiotics? Do you think organic farmers should be spraying a known human carcinogen, nickel, or using pheromone products with toxic inert ingredients? Take action now.
The documents on these issues that will be considered at the Spring 2011 meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (April 26-29, Seattle, WA) are open for public comment until April 10. Public involvement is vital for the organic regulatory process. The NOSB depends on input from the organic community, including organic consumers, farmers and processors, in making its decisions. It seeks comments from concerned consumers, farmers, professionals, or anyone with an interest in protecting the integrity and the future of organic food and farming.
To make your comments more effective and easily understood, comment on each issue (see Beyond Pesticides’ positions on key issues) separately and clearly indicate what issue or materials your comments are concerning. If you would like to submit comments on multiple issues, it is preferable to submit them individually. However, if you do choose to comment on multiple issues in a single submission, please clearly separate them with subheadings.
Submit your comments before April 10 or register if you would like to present a statement to the board in person at the meeting in Seattle. View the full docket to view other comments already submitted.
Take Action: Making Your Voice Heard
The organic regulatory process provides numerous opportunities for the public to weigh in on what is allowable in organic production. USDA maintains a National List, set by the NOSB, of the synthetic substances that may be used and the non-synthetic substances that may not be used in organic production and handling. The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and NOP regulations provide for the sunsetting of listed substances every five years and relies on public comment in evaluating their continuing uses. The public may also file a petition to amend the National List. In both cases, sunset and petition, the NOSB is authorized by OFPA to determine a substanceâ€™s status.
ISSUES BEFORE THE NOSB (April 2011 Meeting)
Beyond Pesticides urges public comments on the following issues. All these issues and use of substances have direct bearing on organic integrity, so it is critical to have public input into the NOSB decision making process. Submit your comments before April 10.
See Beyond Pesticides analysis and position on the following issues. A synopsis of the issue follows with a link to additional background on the subject.
* Identifying/reviewing synthetics in organics
* Classification of materials: What level of a synthetic should be reviewed for harm?
* Copper compounds
* Sodium nitrate
* Other substances/inputs
Organic vs. Conventional: Don’t forget the big picture
As we raise our voices in defense of the integrity of the organic label, it is important to bear in mind the differences between organic farming and conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that focuses on feeding the soil and growing naturally healthy crops.
Conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture depends on toxic chemicals that poison the soil, as well as the air, water, and consumers of the crops. Organic farmers can use natural pesticides, after exhausting other strategies including crop rotation, cultural practices, beneficial species, etc. However, synthetic chemicals can only be used in organic farming and processing if they are approved by the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a process that includes a detailed checklist of possible health and environmental impacts and considers the need for the chemical.
In contrast, the process for registering pesticides for crops explicitly does not consider the need for the chemical. Currently, about 50 entries are included on the â€śNational Listâ€ť of allowable synthetic materials. These include alcohols used as disinfectants, soap-based insecticides, newspaper weed barriers, and vitamins. On the other hand, there are tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals, including over 200 pesticide â€śactive ingredients,â€ť approved for use in conventional systems, not to mention chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), antibiotics, sewage sludge and irradiation.