QAI participates in the biannual National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings where proposals related to materials and organic practices are discussed and voted on or sent back to the subcommittees for further development. Our staff provides statistics to the board regarding which materials are currently being used by our clients, as well as insights into industry practices. This information helps inform board members regarding the essentiality of a material before they vote for its continued inclusion or removal from the National Organic Program standards. The information also brings industry context to the board’s discussions and decisions.
The most recent NOSB meeting took place on October 31-November 2, 2017 in Jacksonville, FL. The NOSB reviewed 35 sunset materials as well as several petitions and proposals at this meeting. The sunset review process is a periodic review of materials currently on the National List intended to evaluate their continued eligibility for the National List as established by the criteria in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). All materials but one have a sunset date of March 15, 2022 due to the sunset reorganization1, which means that if the NOSB voted to remove them and the NOP adopts the recommendation, the materials are likely to be allowed in organic production until that date. Biodegradable biobased mulch film has a sunset date of October 30, 2019 but was not recommended for removal from the National List.
The recommended changes to the National List or to the organic requirements are summarized below. Note that recommendations from the NOSB are not enforceable by certifiers. The National Organic Program (NOP) must accept the recommendations and then publish a proposed rule that reflects those recommendations. When the proposed rule is published, there is an additional opportunity for public comment before NOP finalizes and publishes the final rule.
Recommended Changes to the National List
The following materials are recommended by the NOSB to be removed from or added to the National List:
- Vitamin B1 is currently listed at §205.601(j)(8) of the National List for use as a plant or soil amendment in organic crop production. The NOSB recommended removing vitamin B1 from the National List because of its unproven efficacy and a lack of essentiality. This material will be removed from the National List pending NOP rulemaking by its sunset date of March 15, 2022.
- Oxytocin is currently listed at §205.603(a)(17) of the National List for use in post-parturition therapeutic applications in organic livestock production. The NOSB recommended removing oxytocin from the National List because the NOSB determined that oxytocin is not essential for livestock production since natural alternatives are available. Oxytocin was recommended for removal from the National List pending NOP rulemaking by its sunset date of March 15, 2022.
- Procaine is currently listed at §205.603(b)(7) of the National List for use as a local anesthetic in organic livestock production. The NOSB recommended removing procaine from the National List because the NOSB determined that there are no commercially available forms of procaine that would comply with organic standards and that lidocaine, also at §205.603(b) for this use, is an effective alternative. Procaine will be removed from the National List pending NOP rulemaking by its sunset date of March 15, 2022.
- Konjac flour is currently listed at §205.606(n) for use in organic processing when organic forms are not commercially available. The NOSB recommended removing konjac flour from the National List because the NOSB determined that organic konjac flour is likely to meet the demand of organic processors. Konjac flour will be removed from the National List pending NOP rulemaking by its sunset date of March 15, 2022, and organic forms will then be required in organic processing.
- Potassium acid tartrate is currently listed at §205.605(b) as a nonagricultural synthetic substance for use in organic processing. The NOSB recommended that potassium acid tartrate be reclassified as agricultural and moved to §205.606. The decision was based on the 2017 technical report that detailed the manufacturing process of the material, as well as the NOP Final Guidance for Classification of Materials that outlines the criteria for determining whether a material is agricultural or nonagricultural, synthetic or nonsynthetic. Moving the substance to §205.606 would mean that nonorganic forms may only be used when organic forms are not commercially available. If accepted by NOP, potassium acid tartrate will be moved to §205.606.
- Elemental sulfur was petitioned for inclusion at §205.603 for use in livestock production as an external parasiticide to control mites, fleas and ticks. The NOSB recommended that elemental sulfur be added to the National List for this use. Elemental sulfur is already permitted as a livestock feed ingredient, and for several uses in crop production. If accepted by NOP, elemental sulfur will be added to §205.603.
NOSB Votes on Proposals
The following subcommittee proposals related to the National List or other organic standards issues were discussed and voted on by the NOSB:
- Recommendations on hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics: The NOSB voted to prohibit aeroponics from organic certification. The NOSB defined aeroponics as “a variation of hydroponic plant production in which plant roots are suspended in air and misted with nutrient solution.” However, to QAI’s knowledge, certifiers have not certified aeroponic growing methods to date. The other parts of the proposal, which was to prohibit the organic certification of hydroponics, including aquaponics, did not pass and therefore, organic hydroponic production continues to be a certifiable practice. This vote did not end the discussion on this topic. There is some discussion within the NOSB regarding a future proposal for an alternative label for hydroponic operations.
- Recommendations on excluded methods terminology: The NOSB adopted a recommendation that cisgenesis, intragenesis and agro-filtration are considered excluded methods and therefore prohibited from use to produce products represented as organic. The NOSB acknowledged that the recommendation for cisgenesis is not intended to include cell fusion, which is not prohibited by adopting the recommendation on cisgenesis.
- Recommendations on strengthening the NOP guidance for excluded operations: The NOSB adopted the proposal, with minor non-substantive revisions, to further define what operations are excluded from certification via a revision to existing NOP Guidance 5031 – Certification Requirements for Handling Unpackaged Organic Products. The proposed revision also clarifies the requirements of labeling bulk packages and containers, as well as what constitutes an enclosed package or container. If adopted by NOP, NOP 5031 would be revised to say that an operation is excluded from certification if it only handles organic products that are enclosed in a package or container and remain in the same package or container for the entire handling period and that the package or container must be labeled as “organic” and contain the “certified organic by” certifier statement, the name of the handler and list of ingredients (if applicable).
Other Materials, Petitions and Updates
Other materials, petitions and updates that did not result in changes to the National List include:
- Petitions that failed:
- Fatty alcohols (crops)
- Anaerobic digestate (crops)
- Hypochlorous acid (livestock)
- Newspaper and other recycled paper (crops)
- Verbal updates
- Tocopherols used in processing, currently listed at 205.605b of the National List, remain as listed until there are organic sources commercially available. The NOSB will then reconsider taking up the issue of changing its National List listing.
- The proposal for ancillary substances in cellulose, which is currently listed at 205.605b of the National List, will be dropped until the ancillary recommendation that was passed at the April 2016 meeting is adopted by the NOP. The NOSB will continue to accumulate a list of ancillaries noted in technical reviews and petitions, and will revisit these when there is a formalized system of ancillary review validated by NOP.
- Sunset review of the following materials that did not result in a recommended change to the National List:
- Crops, livestock, handling: Chlorine materials
- Crops: Herbicides (soap-based), biodegradable biobased mulch film, boric acid, sticky traps/barriers, copper sulfate, coppers (fixed), humic acids, Micronutrients (soluble boron products), micronutrients (sulfates, carbonates, oxides, or silicates of zinc, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and cobalt), vitamin B1, vitamin C and E, lead salts (remains prohibited), tobacco dust (remains prohibited)
- Livestock: Chlorhexidine, glucose, tolazoline, copper sulfate, lidocaine
- Handling: Attapulgite, bentonite, diatomaceous earth, nitrogen, sodium carbonate acidified sodium chlorite, carbon dioxide, magnesium chloride, sodium phosphates, casings, pectin
1 The National List items under the 2019 sunset review cycle are part of a reorganization process that will result in a more evenly distributed sunset review workload over the five-year sunset review cycle. National List inputs that are reviewed early under the reorganization plan are allowed to sunset on their original timeline unless the board votes for early removal.