Spring 2020 NOSB Meeting

National Organic Standards Board

Spring 2020 NOSB Meeting
Comment by April 3, 2020!

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meets April 29-30 online to debate issues concerning what goes into your organic food.

From the very beginning, with the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, “organic” has meant “continuous improvement.” The primary mechanism for continuous improvement in organic production is the high level of public involvement that comes from twice-annual meetings of the stakeholder board.

The second mechanism is the sunset process, which helps move synthetic substances out of organic production as the market invests in growing organic inputs and ingredients. Despite USDA’s efforts to weaken the sunset process, the 5-year cycle of review of every synthetic substance currently used in organic production and processing, offers us an opportunity to keep organic strong and strengthen any weaknesses.

Items on the NOSB agenda in April include materials allowed in organic production, as well as discussion of policies and materials (petitions and sunsets) on which the NOSB will vote in the Fall. We have identified some priority issues of both kinds. The only voting issue on the NOSB agenda for this meeting is a petition that would allow the use of paper pots made of virgin paper as a planting aid. Discussion topics provide a good opportunity for the public to have input into framing the issues.

Priority Issues

For more detailed analysis, scroll down to the description and links. For quick copy and paste, use the text below to comment at Regulations.gov. Add a personal message about why this is important to you at the top, if possible. 

Paper Pots
The use of paper pots as petitioned –hemp kraft paper, with hemp fibers for strength, and with the petitioned additives poses no more hazard to the soil or to organic consumers than the allowed use of recycled paper, which contains many more additives. However, this decision should not based on comparison with the allowed use of recycled paper, but on compliance with OFPA criteria. Although the use of the paper pots does not appear to pose any health threat, more data is needed on the biodegradability of the adhesives. The CS should develop a proposal that contains an annotation clarifying the materials and manufacturing processes that will be allowed, and pots made from virgin wood pulp should not be allowed. Finally, since there will be other products that incorporate other additives, the NOSB should hold the line on allowed materials in the pots, while remaining open to amendments in the future.

The Materials Subcommittee has outlined many of the issues that should be covered regarding sanitizers, but they need to be addressed within a framework that first identifies the needs for cleaning and sanitizing materials in organic production and handling. A comprehensive review of sanitizers as a review should begin with identifying the needs of organic producers and handlers for cleaning and sanitizing materials.

Such a review should start with the questions:
      1.  For what purposes are cleaning and sanitizing materials needed?
      2.  Are specific (e.g., chlorine-based) cleaning and sanitizing materials required by law?

Both in terms of a strict reading of OFPA and common sense, all cleansers and antimicrobials used in organic production and handling should be on the National List, regardless of subsequent rinsing. 

“Inert” Ingredients
Active ingredients in pesticide products used in organic production have been carefully screened to ensure that they meet the requirements of OFPA and present little hazard to people and ecosystems, from their manufacture through their use and disposal. So-called “inert” ingredients have not received the same level of scrutiny. In addition, “inert” ingredients make of the largest part of many pesticide product formulations. As a result, the most hazardous part of pesticide products used in organic production is often these ingredients.

EPA stopped supporting the NOP allowance of List 4 “inert” ingredients 14 years ago. Since then, the NOSB has repeatedly passed recommendations to take action that would allow the NOSB to review so-called “inerts” on the same five-year schedule as other synthetic materials used in organic production. The NOP has not even taken the first step of verifying the list of “inerts” that are actually used in organic-approved products. Tell the NOSB to refuse to relist List 4 “inerts” unless the NOP initiates steps to require examination of every “inert” ingredient.

The NOSB cannot rely on the 2015 TR covering parasiticides used in mammalian livestock to support a decision to allow the use of fenbendazole in poultry. Such use does not meet OFPA criteria—it may harm the environment, allow residues in organic eggs that are not compatible with organic practices, and is not necessary for organic poultry production. The definition of emergency proposed by the LS is inadequate to protect organic consumers from fraudulent use. The NOSB should reject the use of fenbendazole in poultry.

Marine Materials
The protection of marine ecosystems is urgently important, and since marine plants are crucial to those ecosystems, it is important for all of us, as organic producers, consumers, certifiers, and regulators, to find a way to move this process forward.  We must set enforceable, protective rules for the use of marine algae in organic production. Enforceability implies rules that are verified by on-site inspection and that will stand up to legal challenge. Protective rules must address not only the sustainability of the target marine algae and fish, but also the marine ecosystem and biological communities in which they live.

The NOSB has failed to move forward with overarching policy on marine materials, but faces sunset decisions on use of fish oil and kelp in processing and fish extracts in crop production. These marine products should not be relisted unless the NOSB can place restrictions that protect the marine environment.

Not sure how to use our suggested language to comment? Follow these simple steps:

  1. Select the text in our comments (place your cursor before the first word in the text, then press and hold down the left mouse button and, without releasing the button, move the cursor to the end of the comments).
  2. Copy the selected text by selecting the Ctrl and C keys simultaneously.
  3. Click on this link to to open a new tab and in that tab, place your cursor in the "Comment" box.
  4. Paste the comments you copied by selecting the Ctrl and V keys simultaneously.
  5. Personalize your comments before entering your contact information and selecting "Continue".

Watch video tutorial
on using this analysis for commenting at Regulations.gov.

Spring 2020 NOSB Meeting

The Spring 2020 NOSB meeting dates have been announced and public comments are due by April 3, 2020. Your comments and participation are critical to the integrity of the organic label.

When: Wednesday April 29 and Thrusday April 30, 2020. 

Where: The meeting will be held online on (Meeting access information will be added, please check back.)

Webinars: Comments may be submitted at Webinars on April 21st and 23rd, 2020. More information about accessing the webinars is available on the NOSB website.

Written comments may be submitted through Regulations.gov until 11:59 pm ET April 3, 2020. Reservations for oral webinar comments close at the same time.

The proposals of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), as a part of its ongoing review of practices and materials, are published for public comment. The public comment period will end April 3, 2020. On this page, Beyond Pesticides will be providing the public with a listing and analysis of the issues under consideration of the Board on our website pages. You can view USDA's announcement of the NOSB's meeting and proposals here. Please see Beyond Pesticides' analysis below (and more coming soon).

Issues Before the NOSB for Spring 2020

Materials in the list below are either the subject of petitions or the subject of sunset review. Petitioned materials must have evidence summarized in the proposals that they meet the OFPA requirements of essentiality, no adverse effects on humans and the environment, and compatibility with organic practices. Sunset items are already on the National List, and being considered for delisting. They are subject to the same criteria, but are being considered under NOP's new rules.

The NOSB will vote on materials subject to sunset review at the Fall 2020 meeting.

To truly make an impact in the future of organic, Beyond Pesticides encourages you to:

**On certain browsers, it may be necessary to download a PDF version of Beyond Pesticides' comments in order to view the navigation pane**

Crops Subcommittee

Handling Subcommittee

Livestock Subcommittee

Materials Subcommittee



Draft Meeting Agenda



Take Action at Regulations.gov!
(Comments Due April 3, 2020!)


See All Comments So Far


See Beyond Pesticides' Commenting Guidelines


See All Meeting Materials and Issues


The Organic Foods Production Act



  • Paper Pots
    • Beyond Pesticides’ comments
    • Submit your own comments here
    • Background:  The proposal from the CS is not quite satisfactory. The annotation should be based on the best available product(s). The annotation should address these issues:
      1. Virgin paper from wood pulp should be excluded. The NOSB should determine which alternative sources of cellulose would be acceptable and annotate accordingly.
      2. Only nonsynthetic reinforcement fibers should be allowed.
      3. The examination of adhesives needs to address biodegradability, and the annotation should allow only those that biodegrade completely to nontoxic byproducts.

      The NOSB should require that the 15% allowance for nonbiobased components be revisited during sunset. The only way we know to ensure this is to place an expiration date on the listing.

Discussion Documents

  • Wild, Native Fish for Liquid Fish Products

    • Beyond Pesticides’ comments
    • Submit your own comments here
    • Background: Prohibiting the use of wild, native fish in liquid fish products used for fertility in organic crop production is not only a good idea, but is required to be consistent with organic principles. However, although well-intended, the attempt to avoid impacts on marine ecology by distinguishing wild, native fish from others, which might be acceptable for use in liquid fish products, is doomed because it is unenforceable and cannot prevent damage to marine ecosystems.
  • Biodegradable biobased mulchannotation change

    • Beyond Pesticides' comments
    • Submit your own comments here
    • Background:Beyond Pesticides reiterates what many said at the time that biodegradable biobased mulch film (BBMF) was first petitioned for use in organic production—the available products are not “ready for prime time.” It is disappointing that having discussed at length in 2012 what would make an acceptable BBMF product that there is now an effort to undo that work.  It is contrary to NOSB process that having discussed at length in 2012 an acceptable BBMF product in compliance with OFPA, that there is now an effort to undo those recommendations.Regardless of the pressure to allow this material as currently available in the market, the NOSB should acknowledge, given the new scientific reviews that it now has, that the elements and safeguards of the NOSB’s Fall 2012 decision, however well-intentioned as protection against adverse environmental impacts, including adverse effects to the soil biology, are currently hypothetical and not specific to a substance currently available and under review.
  • Sodium Carbonate lignin
    • Beyond Pesticides' comments
    • Submit your own comments here
    • Background: Sodium carbonate lignin is not eligible to be included on the National List because it does not belong to any of the allowed categories in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), and allowing its use would be inconsistent with organic farming and handling. It is not necessary, and the petition does not present a justification for its necessity for organic production.
  • Hydroponics
    • Beyond Pesticides' comments
    • Submit your own comments here
    • Background: Soil is central to organic production. Therefore, hydroponic operations should not be considered eligible for organic certification. The NOSB should take a clear position in opposition to hydroponics and other non-soil-based methods in organic production, including containers.


Other Issues

Back to the table of contents


Discussion Documents

Petitioned Material Discussion


Back to the table of contents


Petitioned Material Discussion



Other Issues

Back to the table of contents

Back to the table of contents