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08
Jun

Updated Organic Standards, Including Hops and Antibiotics, Become Regulation

(Beyond Pesticides, June 8, 2012) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) has published a final rule in the Federal Register officially codifying into federal regulations changes to organic standards that were recommended by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) over the past year and a half. The changes to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) include the renewal of a number of substances already on the list, the removal of two substances, and specific changes to several others.

Among the more notable changes to the organic standards made by the publication of this final rule is a hard fought victory for organic hops growers in the form of a new requirement that, beginning the first day of 2013, all hops used in organic beer production must be produced organically. Due to the “commercial availability” clause in the organic law, beer bearing the organic seal had previously been allowed to contain conventionally produced hops due to a perception that hops produced organically were not available in the necessary quantities. However, the American Organic Hop Grower Association petitioned the NOSB to remove this allowance on the basis that this would create increased demand for organic hops and their availability would grow. At the November 2010 NOSB meeting, the board agreed and adopted a recommendation to require all hops in organic beer to be produced organically beginning in 2013.

Among the new changes is a compromise among a number of interests in the organic community to extend the phase-out until October 21, 2014 of the antibiotics tetrachycline and streptomycin to control fireblight disease in organic apple and pear production. The allowance of streptomycin and tetratcycline antibiotics in organic fruit production had been scheduled to expire on October 21, 2012 as the result of a previous NOSB recommendation. Environmental and public health advocates had argued at the April 2011 NOSB meeting that current regulations allowing antibiotics to be used in organic fruit production was out of step with organic principles and inconsistent with the prohibition on antibiotics in organic livestock production. However, fruit growers argued that there was no viable organic alternative to fight fireblight and that organic fruit production would suffer significantly if the ban was allowed to take effect. A compromise was reached whereby the allowance was extended by two years until October 21, 2014 to allow for increased research on alternative controls for fireblight in organic fruit trees. The apple and pear producers have indicated that they will submit a petition to the NOSB to extend the phase-out yet again.

Other changes addressed in the final rule include:

• Only non-amidated forms of non-organic pectin, typically added to thicken jams and jellies, will be allowed when organic pectin is not commercially available.
• The listing for iodine, which is used to fortify organic foods, has been clarified.
• The allowed use of chlorine materials in organic crop production has been clarified.
• The allowed use of lignin sulfonate in organic crop production has been clarified.
• The allowed use of non-organic colors in organic processed products has been clarified. Organic colors must be used if they are commercially available.
• Effective October 21, 2012, yeast used in baked goods and other processed organic products must be organic, if commercially available and intended for human consumption.
• Effective October 21, 2012, sulfur dioxide (smoke bombs) will no longer be allowed for rodent control in organic crop production.

The full list of renewals and specific changes to the National List can be found in the appendix to the Federal Register notice. The majority of the changes will take full effect on June 27, 2012 (expiration dates will be added to hops and streptomycin, but the bans will not take effect until those dates are actually reached). Several other potentially significant changes to the organic standards that were recently recommended by the NOSB will be addressed in separate rulemaking actions, according to NOP. These include the NOSB’s recommendation to begin prohibiting the use of sodium nitrate as a fertilizer as well as a recommendation concerning the allowance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in processed organic foods.

Source: NOP press release

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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