Daily News Archive
From May 8, 2006
Loopholes in National
Organic Standards, May 12
Public Comment Deadline
The rules the USDA has proposed are not clear or complete and could cause confusion for farmers and in the marketplace. Please add your voice to the many who will tell USDA to get the regulations right this time! Here is an overview of the problems with the regulations as proposed, and below is the address to write to.
TRANSITION OF DAIRY LIVESTOCK INTO ORGANIC PRODUCTION
The proposed Rule does not clarify the standards for conversion of dairy livestock to organic. Under this proposal it is still unclear whether a certified dairy operation must manage any new milking cows: 1) from the last third of gestation, or 2) no later than one year prior to the production of organic milk or milk products. It is our position that after a farm transitions to organic, all replacement animals should be managed organically from the last third of gestation to close the loophole that allows many replacement dairy animals to be raised conventionally and transitioned to organic management.
Why is This Important? If this correction is not made, some operators and certifying agents may interpret the rule as allowing for the continuous conversion of conventional heifers to organic production. Without closing this loophole, animals converted this way could be treated conventionally for their first year or so of life, including feed made from genetically engineered soy and corn, as well as the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. In addition, such a loophole would continue to undermine those farmers who raise organic heifers, as well as suppress the market demand for organic heifers, making them less available.
Department to: Clarify Origin of Livestock. Section 205.236 Should Read:
The Department incorrectly believes that no rule-making is necessary on the issue of the use of synthetic substances in or on processed products, because they contend that the part of the Congressional Amendment to OFPA "fixed" what Harvey had undone. Yet while the Congressional amendment allowed synthetic ingredients in food labeled organic, it left out the existing, pre-Harvey list of criteria that has been used by the NOSB to evaluate "synthetic substances."
Why is This Important? Because the Congressional Amendment only refers to "ingredients," it leaves a large loophole for many other non-ingredient synthetic substances used in food processing, including "food contact substances" and other processing aids. This could allow their unlimited use without review by the National Organic Standards Board. This Regulation must make the NOSB review process as rigorous as possible, including strong criteria used in these evaluations. Regulatory criteria are established for evaluation of synthetic substances used for both crop and livestock production. Criteria should be re-instated for processing substances, and should apply to all substances used in processing.
the Department to: Apply the criteria in §205.600(b) to all synthetic
substances being reviewed for inclusion on the National List.
Rewrite §205.600(b) to read:
The Department also has a "Policy Statement" still posted on the NOP website which specifically exempts the entire class of FDA "Food Contact Substances" (all 555 of them!) from any NOSB review. This policy statement is in direct conflict with the Organic Foods Production Act and the court order. [Go to www.cfsan.fda.gov/%7Edms/opa-fcn.html to see the list of Food contact Substances]
2) Tell the Department to: Close the loophole the National Organic Standards Board must review ALL synthetic materials used in organic processing, including all synthetic substances as well as ingredients. Tell the Department to specifically: Withdraw the Policy Statement of December 12, 2002, entitled: Synthetic Substances Subject to Review and Recommendation by the National Organic Standards Board When Such Substances are Used as Ingredients in Processed Food Products
The Amendment to OFPA gave the Secretary the ability to "develop emergency procedures for designating agricultural products that are commercially unavailable in organic form for placement on the National List for a period of time not to exceed 12 months.''
Why is This Important? The Department has not proposed guideline regulations for these procedures. Without such regulations, it is unclear how such "emergency procedures" will be implemented.
Department: If USDA intends to exercise the authority
granted under this amendment, they must do Rulemaking to clarify under
what conditions and criteria the Secretary shall determine agricultural
products [in the 5% portion of an organic processed product] to be "Commercially
Unavailable." This Rulemaking must include a 60-day comment period.
Be sure to put the
following docket number in the subject line: TM-06-06-PR, and email
your letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org