Summary of the 2016 Spring National Organic Standards Board Meeting in Washington, D.C.

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The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) met at the end of April to hear public comment, discuss the 2018 Sunset Materials, and vote on a number of proposals. NOSB also welcomed six new board members at the April meeting, including CCOF member Jesse Buie!

Proposals Passed by NOSB

NOSB discussed and voted on 12 proposals during the spring 2016 meeting. Most notably, NOSB voted on multiple proposals to change the use of parasiticides in organic livestock production. NOSB made a final recommendation to update organic regulatory language to require:

  • “That parasiticides continue to be prohibited in slaughter stock
  • That parasiticides continue to be allowed only in emergency situations
  • That the milk withholding period after treatment with Fenbendazole or Moxidectin be changed from 90 days to 2 days for dairy cows, and 36 days for goats and sheep.
  • That the listing for Ivermectin remains as presently listed, with a 90-day withdrawal period
  • That Moxidectin be allowed for both internal and external use
  • That fleece and wool from fiber-bearing animals be allowed to be certified organic even if use of parasiticides were necessary (emergency) at some time in the animal’s life
  • That Fenbendazole be allowed without written order of a veterinarian” i

For detailed information about the parasiticide recommendation and other proposals voted on by NOSB during the spring meeting, refer to the Organic Trade Association’s NOSB Report - Spring 2016.

2018 Sunset Materials and Additions to the National List

The NOSB subcommittees on crops and handling discussed public comments on 15 materials up for review on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List). NOSB will vote to approve or remove the materials from the National List during the fall 2016 meeting in Saint Louis, Missouri. While NOSB expressed its intent to renew most of these 15 materials, questions and concerns were raised about some materials, including carrageenan, cellulose, and beta-carotene extract color.

For a summary of NOSB’s discussion regarding each of the 2018 Sunset Review materials see below.

NOSB also passed proposals to add new materials to the National List. These materials include squid byproducts for use in crop production, as well as sodium lactate and potassium lactate for use in organic processing. NOSB voted to approve the use of electrolyzed water as a sanitizer in organic crop, livestock, and processing production.

About the Sunset Process

USDA organic standards prohibit synthetic substances unless specifically allowed and non-synthetic substances are allowed unless specifically prohibited. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP), which is the USDA agency responsible for administering organic standards, maintains the National List. The National List sets forth what specific synthetic substances are allowed and what non-synthetic substances are prohibited.

The NOP may add or remove substances to the National List after it completes a review process. The NOSB, a citizen advisory committee appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, must review a substance on the National List every five years from the date the substance is added. To review a substance, NOSB considers technical reports, reviews oral and written public comments, discusses materials, and then casts a vote on whether to prohibit the substance in organic production. The outcome of the vote determines the official NOSB recommendation to NOP on whether to remove a material from the National List.

Notably, the review process is not complete when NOSB makes its recommendation. To remove a material from the National List, NOP must pursue federal rulemaking, which includes another round of public comment and review. A material is not officially removed from the National List until NOP completes federal rulemaking and issues an official notice.

Summary of Discussion Regarding the 2018 Sunset Materials Review at the Spring 2016 NOSB Meeting

Material Use NOSB Discussioni
Crops Materials
Copper sulfate Used as an algicide in aquatic rice production systems. The crops subcommittee supports relisting the material for use in rice production. 
Ozone gas Used as an irrigation system cleaner. The crops subcommittee supports relisting the material.
Peracetic acid Used to disinfect equipment, seed, and asexually propagated planting material. The crops subcommittee supports relisting the material.
EPA List 3: Inerts of unknown toxicity Used in passive pheromone dispensers. NOSB has no intent of removing pheromones from organic production. 
Calcium chloride Used as a foliar spray to treat a physiological disorder associated with calcium uptake in crops. The crops subcommittee supports relisting the material for use as a foliar spray.
Handling Materials
Agar-agar A food additive used as a stabilizer, thickener, moisturizer, and flavor enhancer. The handling subcommittee supports relisting the material.
Animal enzymes Naturally-occurring proteins that carry out naturally-occurring biological processes that are useful in food processing. For example, the animal enzyme rennet is used to curdle milk in cheese making. The handling subcommittee supports relisting the material. Some public comments addressed the availability of organic enzymes.
Calcium sulfate-mined Used as a dough conditioner, firming agent, and coagulant in tofu manufacturing. The handling subcommittee supports relisting the material at this time.
Carrageenan Used as a bulking agent, stabilizer, or thickener in food processing. Most NOSB members are uncertain about how they will vote on this material during the Fall 2016 NOSB meeting. NOSB received diverse public comments on carrageenan. The handling subcommittee requested a technical review on the harvest of seaweed to address environmental concerns. The subcommittee will also look into how the removal of this material from the National List would impact farmer livelihood.
Glucono delta-lactone Used in the production of tofu. NOSB reviewed public comments questioning the necessity of the material, as well as comments stating that it is necessary for organic tofu production. 
Tartaric acid Has many functions in food processing, including use as an emulsifier, stabilizer, and anti-caking agent. The handling subcommittee supports relisting the material.
Cellulose Used as a processing aid for filtration of juices, as an anti-caking agent ingredient for use in shredding cheese, and as a processing aid in the form of peelable sausage casings. NOSB is undecided on how it will vote at the fall 2016 meeting.
Potassium hydroxide Used as a processing aid for filtration of juices, as an anti-caking agent ingredient for use in shredding cheese, and as a processing aid in the form of peelable sausage casings. NOSB is undecided on how it will vote at the fall 2016 meeting.
Silicon dioxide Has various functions in food processing, including use as an anti-caking agent, carrier, and defoaming agent. NOSB received comments in support of relisting, as well as concerns about the material being produced by nanotech methods. There was interest in researching alternatives.
Colors: Beta-carotene extract Used as a color in food processing. NOSB received public comment for and against relisting the material. The handling subcommittee is requesting more information from the companies that use Beta-carotene extract as a food color.

Organic Trade Association. (2016). “NOSB Report Spring 2016.” Retrieved May 13, 2016 from