Cornucopia policy staff members attended the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) pre-meeting webinars on April 17 and 18, where the NOSB heard comments from the public. Our notes from this meeting are below.

Wednesday, April 17

Fourteen NOSB members present:

Source: Alan Clark, Flickr

Harriet Behar (January 2016 – January 2020) – NOSB Chair
Steve Ela (January 2017 – January 2022) – Vice Chair
Scott Rice (January 2016 – January 2021)
Sue Baird (January 2017 – January 2022)
Jesse Buie (January 2016 – January 2021)
Tom Chapman (January 2015 – January 2020)
Lisa de Lima (January 2015 – January 2020)
James R. “Rick” Greenwood (May 2018 – January 2023)
A-dae Romero-Briones (January 2016 – January 2021)
Dan Seitz (January 2016 – January 2021)
Ashley Swaffar (January 2015 – January 2020)
Emily Oakley (January 2016 – January 2021)
Asa Bradman (January 2017 – January 2022)

Will be joining later:
Dave Mortensen (January 2017 – January 2022)

There are currently 14 board members since one resigned.

Introductions from Michelle Arsenault.
Paul Lewis, Director of Standards Division from the National Organic Program (NOP), opens the meeting.

This webinar was recorded and transcribed and will be part of the official record for the NOSB’s Spring 2019 meeting.

[In Cornucopia staff notes on individual comments below, our staff has included the commenter’s name and affiliation]

Billy Carter, Carter Farms

Farm in North Carolina. Parcels farmed in 1988 but farmed since 1983. Organic tobacco is primary crop.

Comment: Fatty alcohols are used to control sucker growth in tobacco, allowing for better pest control and the more efficient use of fertilizers. Without fatty alcohols, it would be difficult to grow any organic tobacco. Old materials application had to be done by hand and had a high labor cost. Organic production would be significantly reduced without this tool.

Request (Billy): USDA grant temporary allowance for fatty alcohols until review. NOSB and USDA add fatty alcohols to the National List.

Comment (NOSB/NOP staff): There is an allowance for the use of fatty alcohols if you have been using them already.

Comment from Paul Lewis: The NOSB will be talking more about fatty alcohols at the full board meeting.

Q from Emily: Why isn’t manual removal an option for suckers? Is it due to time constraints and worker exposure?

A: The farm currently does use some hand removal, but timing and worker exposure are serious concerns. There are also limitations on the quantity that can be grown weekly in an 8-week time frame. Manual removal is also very difficult work to do for any length of time.

Q from Asa Bradman: Heat exposure for workers is understood. Are there other exposures that are a concern?

A: Dehydration and nicotine exposure, which can cause green tobacco sickness. Workers are required to wear protective gear when it is wet and cannot be in the field when it is very hot, limiting the amount of manual labor possible in the field and, therefore, the manual removal of suckers.

Q: How many times do you spray?

A: 4-5 times.

Q: How does tobacco fit into your crop rotation?

A: Traditionally, there is a 3-year rotation, but the farm is currently transitioning into 4-year rotation schedule. Sweet potatoes often proceed tobacco, as do winter cover crops (i.e., cereal). After tobacco, a cereal cover crop is planted, as are different rotations (e.g., field corn, etc.).

Q: Are there certified organic cigarettes?

A: Yes. Our tobacco is used to produce certified organic end products, labeled as organic tobacco.

Q from Tom: Does your crop rotation impact your need to use fatty alcohols?

A: Not that I am aware of. Tobacco is an interesting crop, because you need proper amount of fertility to ripen correctly, specifically nitrogen deprivation. Excess nitrogen does produce more suckers—suckers take N away from main growth, causing it ripen more quickly.

Q: Is there an increasing demand for organic tobacco?

A: There is primarily one entity that use organic tobacco on a commercial scale; their domestic business is increasing.

Peyton McDaniel, Hickory Meadows Organics

Grows 50 acres of organic tobacco, along with other crops. Growing organic tobacco for 10+ years, and it’s the farm’s most important crop.

Comment: Fatty alcohols are necessary for controlling suckers. Manual removal increases risks to workers (i.e., green tobacco sickens) and is too time consuming.

Request: USDA have temporary allowance for fatty alcohols until NOSB has a chance to review it and NOSB and USDA add fatty alcohols to National List.

Q from Harriet: Have you been using them and for how many years?

A: Yes, for 7-8 years. It’s been great and we want to continue. As Billy said we are continuing to use it because we had inventory from last year.

Jennifer Daniels, Windy Creek Farms

250-acre organic farm, located in eastern North Carolina. The use of fatty alcohols in our operation is of high importance; organic tobacco brings in triple the revenue of grain (i.e., wheat and soy). Windy Creek has approximately 40 acres of tobacco in production.

Comment: The farm needs fatty alcohol support to reduce labor and time spent in the field removing suckers. The suckers attract pests, which lay eggs and damage tobacco, and the energy goes to suckers instead of the leaf, the end yield product.

The hand labor does go in with the crop rotation in our farm because we are harvesting cucumbers and peppers at the same time you would be cutting back suckers.

I love the fact we feed people organic food, but the organic tobacco is what sustains our farm. Land rent is high and a big portion of our cost and the use of fatty alcohols makes our tobacco more productive.

There is not an effective alternative to fatty alcohols.

Q from Steve: Will this be a problem for you if the board does not act on this in the fall; would it inhibit your ability to produce?

A: We do have some on hand but it’s a narrow margin for what we will need. So we hope to have a temporary allowance.

Q from Harriet: What kinds of insects are attracted to suckers, and what do you do to control them?

A: Aphids. We don’t use anything against them. Removing suckers solves the problem.

Jane Iseley, Iseley Farms

Organic tobacco producer. Iseley Farms is a diverse producer, but organic tobacco pays the bills. The nature of the plant is to reproduce seeds with a flower. When you break the top flower out, the plant grows suckers—up to 60 suckers per plant— on approximately 6,000 plants per acre.

If farmers lose the opportunity to control suckers, there would be no way to pay for labor. Basically, it would mean leaving farming.

Q from Harriet: We used to grow tobacco in Wisconsin. I understand the culture of supporting the farm with tobacco.

A: Thank you, and I hope I get to farm some more.

Q from Steve: If this product isn’t renewed, do you have enough product for future years?

A: I only have enough for this year.

Alex Watkins, Alex Watkins Farm

Organic farmer from North Carolina. Alex Watkins Farm is a 350-acre, 4th generation tobacco farm (as well as wheat and soy). They cannot  balance costs on the farm without tobacco production. Small grains only generate a small amount of profit.

At the age of 49, Alex Watkins will have to quit farming if fatty alcohols are not considered for next year.

Request: I would ask the board to allow the use of fatty alcohols in the future.

Comment from Emily: Thank you to all of the farmers for participating in the webinar. It’s helpful to hear from farmers.

Q from Steve: If this product isn’t renewed, do you have enough product for future years? Do you have enough for this year?

A: Yes, I have enough for 2019, but not 2020.

Steven Etka, Policy Director, National Organic Coalition (NOC)

Comment: Regarding organic fraud, the discussion document is welcome, but more needs to be done urgently.

NOC Priorities:

  1. Eliminating exclusions for uncertified handlers. The Farm Bill mandates this action; it needs to happen soon.
  2. Improvements to the organic database and tracking system.

We should explore short-term administrative protections, because the new Farm Bill is a way off.

NOC members met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). They have little advance notice of fraudulent shipments. This is problematic.

There are domestic fraud issues as well, especially in organic dairy and livestock. Action is needed on the transitioning of dairy cows. As well as the pasture standard. In particular, the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule (OLPP) should be reinstated to support true outdoor access for poultry.

Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Director, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA)

Thank you for adding energy infrastructure issues added to work agenda.

Imports fraud. OEFFA has provided detailed comments on this issue. There is a big sense of urgency to deal with imports issues.

OEFFA proposes short-term rulemaking, process improvements, and discreet actions, including:

  • Certification of handlers who take possession of organic products in unsealed containers
  • Private labels who have an organic claim
  • Harmonize tariff codes; HT codes, etc.

Specific ports of entry should be targeted until CBP has legislative authority to track imports fraud, direct the USDA to raise awareness of fraud, and prioritize inspection of at-risk commodity.

The NOSB should recommend that the NOP pursue stopgap authority for imports fraud.

Q from Harriet: Regarding energy infrastructure on organic farms, what action do you envision the NOSB taking?

A: Guidance or instruction to certifiers so they have more tools and resources when dealing with producers who are challenged by energy infrastructure, so they can help them stay in organic agriculture. Tools and consistency will be beneficial in the long term.

Julia Barton, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA)

The addition of energy infrastructure to the work agenda is valuable. OEFFA hopes to see a discussion document, as well as a mitigation plan for producers and, eventually, guidance for certifiers so certification can be maintained.

The NOP should support he NOSB as they engage with this issue.

OEFFA appreciates the proposal regarding GE contamination. We held calls with grain growers to prepare for these issues. Burden of seed purity should ot fall on the farmer. Suppliers test one sample from each lot, rather than testing each individual farmer.

Request: The NOP should subcontract with an entity that would compile this testing data.

Corn, transparency, and data gathering should be the priorities. We urge forward movement on this proposal.

Q from Asa: Regarding organic mitigation planning and protecting certification—do you know farmers that have lost their certification from clashes with energy infrastructure?

A: There are several specific examples. A grower in Apple Creek, Ohio had a pipeline come through his farm 2 seasons ago. He had to re-transition the area surrounding the pipeline because the company did not adhere to organic production practices during construction. The situation was very challenging because he was managing an organic dairy herd that crossed the area where the pipeline impacted.

Q from Emily: Asks for an update from the NOP?

Paul: Yes, we have the work agenda in process. We are still in the review process and I can’t update the timeline.

Q from Harriet: RE: the genetic integrity of organic seed—Are your growers supportive of growers doing the testing? We have found many seeds suppliers already do the testing, so it may not increase costs.

A: Yes, we have a very active grain grower component. Farmers are most concerned about the time they would spend testing, rather than the cost required for transparency.

Michael Sligh, Citizen, former NOSB member

Summarizing his written comments:

  • Support for organic tobacco farmers—fatty alcohols need to be allowed. It is important that this petition be completed this year.
  • Support for the NOSB’s work on new genetic techniques and continuing to move that work forward.
  • Regarding the larger issue of consistency of organic conformity assessment system and the need for ongoing peer review—A key goal was to develop a level playing field, and he is alarmed that that this key goal has not been delivered. Lack of consistency in certification, accreditation, etc. especially for large-scale livestock systems. Production systems for which there are no standards (i.e., hydroponic and containers) have not been approved and may not be compliant.
  • Peer review finds need to be addressed—consistency is needed.
  • Congress and USDA should move forward as quickly as possible to enforce against imports fraud.
  • Infographic included in written comments is an illustration of how organic integrity is eroded.

Q from Harriet: Peer review has been a continued issue; what can the NOSB and NOP do to improve consistency?

A: Peer review was intended by law to happen every year, and the associated findings should increase organic integrity. Recommendation: attempt to complete peer reviews within the allotted year and publish the finding so they can be acted on. Inconsistency leads to greater fraud and more issues for farmers.

Q from Steve Ela: RE: fatty alcohols—what are the problems if we don’t take action?

A: As you heard from the farmers, they are using up what they have, they need to know with certainty they can continue to grow this crop. He hoped the NOSB would address this issue at this meeting. He would hate to see these farmers lose their business.

Q 2 from Steve: RE: Hydroponic & container growing certification—Not having consistent standards, are there any specific things you see issues with right now?

A: On a macro level, if the NOSB allows practices that do not have standards, it creates an uneven playing field and the potential for operations to be included that are not compliant with all the language in the organic regulations. Allowing hydroponic certification without common standards is recipe for failure to comply with tenets like building soil, crop rotation, biodiversity, etc.

Nicole Dehne, Certification Director, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA VT)

Certifies over 700 producers in Vermont. NOFA VT appreciates that the NOSB added paper pots to the work agenda in a timely manner. Virgin paper should be included as part of this review. If additives like synthetics are a concern, virgin paper could be a good solution. Paper is already widely used in organic systems.

Vaccines—NOFA VT appreciates the acknowledgement that vaccines are important for preventing disease. They are currently reviewing all of the vaccines used by their producers. They haven’t found any small dairy or beef producers using methods not allowed. Documentation of commercial availability can include documentation from veterinarians, etc.

Embryo Transfer—As long as no hormones were used, NOFA VT has always believed that it was allowed. This technology has not been in high demand.

Q for Harriet: RE: Embryo transfer—If a producer did approach you, and the embryos came from an animal treated with hormones but the receiving animal had not, that would be okay?

A: Yes, that was NOFA VT’s interpretation. You can have semen from a non-organic animal, so maybe embryos would be okay too.

Q From Harriet: If it became less expensive to do this transfer, is there any concern about narrowing of gene pools?

A: There might be that concern. It does not seem like this practice does not seem like a necessity to our producers.

Q from Steve: RE: Paper pots/virgin paper issue—Synthetic fibers are often used on these paper pot products, like plastics. Do you think these should be allowed? Should we just look at pots or paper from all sources?

A: We need to be careful about requiring a “perfect material” for organic farms. When farmers apply prohibited fertilizer, there is a 3-year wait period. This may not remove all residues, but it’s a compromise and discourages the use of these materials. So yes, there may be synthetic fibers, but the amount applied to land is not significant.

Q: Is there a limit on how much should be allowed?

A: Look at what is doable in the marketplace and push the marketplace to use less synthetic fibers once an allowance is granted.

Amber Pool, Senior Farm Certification Specialist, CCOF

Horticultural oils are often used in combination with other allowed substances. Oils are used for pest and plant disease management.

Brand names: IAT sprays. We don’t know of any better alternatives.

Currently, 465 CCOF producers list pheromones on their organic system plans (OSPs). These chemicals are used to disrupt pest insects. Pheromone use continues to grow in organic production as more products, and more products specific to certain insect pests, come available.

Q from Steve: Do any producers use spray-on formulations, or do they use them in dispensers?

A: Most are in dispensers, but some may use spray application.

Jaydee Hanson, Policy Director, Center for Food Safety (CFS)

The Center for Food Safety was surprised that bisphenol A (BPA) was removed from the work agenda by the NOP at October meeting. BPA and other plasticizers should continue to be researched; they are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These compounds move into food, particularly in dairy products, because they are attracted to fats. These chemicals disrupt development, fetuses, and young children.

CFS appreciates the Materials Subcommittee comments regarding transposons that arise from environmental stress. CFS agrees that they are natural, but when they are developed with the use of in-vitro nucleic acid techniques, that should be considered excluded methods. CFS submitted written comments with more details regarding when they would be considered a transgenic product.

Q What about food contact with these substances?

A: In general, food contact chemicals are not being taken seriously enough. BPA especially. These products are counter to what organics is about. The more we study these chemicals, we find that at incredibly small amounts that make significant changes. It should be excluded from organics.

Q from Tom: Is there actually a problem with exposure?

A: During testing, the organic products form Kraft contained the same levels of these chemicals as their non-organic counterparts. Ortho phthalates and BPA need to be looked at the same time. BPA is being phased out, but ortho phthalates are replacing it.

Dana Perls, Senior Food and Tech Campaigner, Friends of the Earth (FOE)

Comment specifically on excluded methods. Urge NOSB to include transposons when produced with certain methods within the excluded methods category. We need to keep organic standards updated with new technology and genetic engineering techniques are incompatible with organic requirements. Any kind of intentional genetic modification are clear biotechnology and should be excluded. Transposons can be natural and also developed in a lab.

We have noted this in our written comments on how to define transposons more clearly to determine when it’s an excluded method. Anything that is not part of the creatures’ natural evolution.

We urge the NOSB to exclude new gene editing and biotech to exclude these methods and new methods as they are developed.

Comment from Dave: Thank you for the detailed written comments.

Marina Abitia, Porterville Citrus [Skipped]

Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science, The Organic Center

Support continued listing of celery powder on the National List. We are working with the Organic Trade Association (OTA) to find an organic alternative to celery powder.

Considering other crops that could have the same utility, but there are many considerations in finding a high-nitrate crop that has the same efficacy.

We hope we will get more funding to explore this issue.

Q from Asa: There is a need for more research and funding, like what you are proposing, thanks.

Kathleen Mellone, UCF Anthropology student [Skipped]

Dallas McCann, Fromer Market Gardens. A certified organic small Farm in Tannersville, New York. [Skipped]

Andrew Dykstra, Organic Valley Dairy Farmer and ex WODPA President [Skipped]

Roland Cargill, Product Registration Specialist Fair Product Inc., consultant for Green Ag Supply

Comment on fatty alcohols.

The source of fatty alcohols is palm and palm kernel oils so it is sustainable. Fatty alcohol derived from natural sources should be compatible, therefore.

TAP report stated that there are no known health issues or no known detrimental effect. Toxicity as moderately low, suspected to be of low concern for environmental contamination. No evidence that there are human health concerns and known for high degree of bio-degradability.

Q: We don’t think human health is a concern, the problem is the other factors.

Q from Jesse: Are you aware that in CA they are listed as a carcinogen?

A: not to my knowledge, they are naturally occurring in the environment in plants. In fact, this is approved as feed additive by FDA.

Kelsey Kerston, Livestock Certification Specialist, CCOF Certification Services

Discussion document regarding vaccines produced with excluded methods. Thank you for the review of our comments. This needs to be considered closely because there will be unintended consequences. Vaccines are important.

Q from Ashley: Is there an option forward you would recommend?

A: we don’t have an answer at this time. Using the commercial availability option may be the best route.

Comment from Harriet: Michael Hanson form CFS comments supposedly lay out how to tell if vaccines are made from excluded methods (like gene modification).

Andy Hudson, Westbridge Agricultural Products will provide comments on calcium acetate. [Skipped]

Jennie Landry, Industry (DSM)

Comment on fish oil.

Omega 3 fatty acids are value-added produces. Fish oil is a natural product. No fish are caught for the production of oil exclusively, and so does not contribute to overfishing. When sourcing, DSM sets high standards for environmental quality. Fish oil GRAS.

We recommend its re-listing to the National List.

Q from Harriet: Document asked about if there were limits on possible contaminates and how purity is tested? Is that purity made available to purchasers for fish oil?

A: There are no limits on contaminants in fish oil specifically. For accessing purity, its individual for each manufacture industry. We use a quality management program.

Q from Tom: How could we potentially modify the listing to control for environmental concerns?

A: Industry wide, it must be sourced as a byproduct and not as a result of direct fishing.

Q: Can you provide suggestive definitions for byproduct and direct fishing? Because those terms need to be defined.

A: Yes, we can provide some suggestions there.

Katherine DiMatteo, Senior Associate, Wolf, DiMatteo + Associates

Wolf, DiMatteo + Associates supports the re-listing of hydrogen peroxide. It breaks down rapidly in the environment without residues. It’s a better alternative for algae control and as a sanitizer. As plant disease control, hydrogen provides great efficacy for multiple diseases.

Support for re-listing of ammonium soaps as large-animal contact repellent. These work, are non-toxic, are biodegradable, and do not effect non-target organisms.

Wolf, DiMatteo + Associates supports the review of paper aids in organic farming. ASTM D 5988 in bio-degradation standard will be helpful in determining if the paper pots and other substances meet National List criteria.

They also support the conservative removal of materials form the list.

Q from Harriet: We haven’t just been looking at whether something is biodegradable, but what that material’s effects will have on soil biology as it degrades. So I don’t think those biodegradable standards deal with that deeper effect? Do you not think that is an issue?

A: The bio-degradation standard does include impacts on soil as well. There is also testing and certification on impacts on soil that can be in conjunction with ASTM standards. The standard will give some criteria and tools that should be helpful.

Tom Honigford, Hurricane Flats Farm [Skipped]

Ray Frizzell, President and CEO, Full Measure Industries (FMI)

His company put in petition for calcium acetate to be accepted as an organic material. This substance is created in nature by plant interaction with microbes in the soil. FMI uses pharmaceutical-grade limestone and concentrated vinegar to make calcium acetate, allowing for immediately available calcium. Plants readily absorb calcium from this product. In addition to use as a nutrient, the application also helps with sores after harvest. Watermelon growers have great success with this use. The product is very easy to apply and has seen 12 years of use in standard agriculture.

Q from Steve: why would this product be essential to organic production? Is it critical in some way?

A: It’s very critical in production because it allows for natural update of nutrients into the plant. Gives plants that pest resistance and shelf life.

Linley Dixon, Assistant Director, Real Organic Project (ROP)

ROP is a farmer-led, grassroots effort. The formation of the ROP is due to many failures of NOP, especially failure of enforcement of livestock rules.

The NOP has failed to require real outdoor access for poultry. The loss of these rules means that pasture-based poultry now compete with the organic label, though they are not using organic feed. NOP and NOSB have also failed to enforce soil and nutrient requirements by allowing hydroponics. True organic berry growers are failing in competition. Many organic dairies and pastured poultry organic producers have already left and real organic berry farmers are struggling to compete.

Prohibited substances are being used to bring products onto the market. For example, conventional soybeans used to fertilize hydroponic crops. The increased use of prohibited substances for the production of hydroponic inputs is a direct result of the NOSB decision to allow hydroponic production without any standards in place.

Bill Wolf, Wolf, DiMatteo + Associates

Comment on marine materials. Seaweed harvest must be sustainable. Wolf, DiMatteo + Associates does not support adding individual annotations to the National List.

The organic preference principle should be applied to the entire National List. Requiring organic inputs, when commercially available, will eliminate phase-in problems and push innovation. They support guidance documents on inputs and sustainability measurements.

They suggest that the NOSB triage issues presented to the board and only address core issues. Farming is less than sustainable and organic farming cannot address every issue. The NOSB needs more professional help to study the issue and help develop their positon; a professional staff should carry the primary burden of research.

Q from Emily: If a species if in danger of harm, how would your suggestion address that?

A: History shows that organic preference does cause continuous improvement to occur.

Dave Chapman, Executive Director, Real Organic Project, Organic Farmers Association, Organic Farmer

Recent OFA meeting with Jennifer Tucker: Pasture Rule is not being enforced, and the NOP acknowledges this. They have been promising this for 9 years; origin of livestock rule will take years more. Tucker said she had no power to pass new regulations. They pointed out she does have the responsibility to enforce current rules.

In an earlier discussion with NOC Tucker, they made it clear that there is no transition time for hydroponics. Application of herbicides immediately prior to certification is allowed and occurring. There is also no limitation on spraying pesticide between crops, changing substrate, and then re-applying for organic certification. The allowance of this is the logical conclusion of allowing hydroponic as organic. These positions are not outliers.

The only hope to the NOP is that consumers will not discover this is being allowed or there will be enormous damage to the industry, farmers, and consumers.

The NOSB should take a more active role in protecting American and the meaning of organic.

Q  from Steve: RE: Container production—Advocating that the land those containers sit upon should going through 3-year transition standard?

A: We are advocating that the NOSB grandfather all those facilities, and require that organic requires growing in the ground. There is not a logical path to allowing hydroponics.

Q: Are there farms where containers have been sprayed and then put right down on top?

A: That has been confirmed and conveyed by my reports and reports from Tucker. One certifier on record admits to allowing that practice. It is the stated position of the NOP that there is no transition period. Large greenhouse facilities are now becoming organic overnight, so of course they were using prohibited substances.

Q from Emily: This must not be true, because it’s the land getting certified not the container. Paul could you please answer some of this discussion going on?

Paul response: I’ve been having conversations with the NOP on this. Next week we will have more to share.

Emily: I hope the clarification is that the 3-year transition applies.

Colehour Bondera, Kanalani Ohana Farm, NOSB alum

Since NOSB cannot do all that’s needed, Chapman is taking that on.

Precautionary principle should be in place.

All NOSB works off of and Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) works on this statement (Wingspread statement). Substances are best kept out of organic systems based on precautionary principle. The sunset clause is for exceptions, which should be few. Substances should not be kept in sunset in perpetuity.

Based on health and environment, reject silver and AITC to material listings.

Chlorine-based sanitizers should not be re-listed; they are not necessary or safe.

Synthetic methionine should sunset off the list. Natural substances and alternatives are available.

Q: With respect to sanitizers and the updates on food safety regulation, what are the alternatives?

A: There are other alternatives, like hydrogen peroxide. Chlorine is too harmful.

Q from Harriet: We are going to hear from methionine task force about what natural materials they have tried, why they didn’t work, and what they are planning to do. We are doing the best we can with this material.

Thursday, April 18

Fourteen NOSB members present:

Harriet Behar (January 2016 – January 2020)—chair of the NOSB
Steve Ela (January 2017 – January 2022) – Vice chair
Scott Rice (January 2016 – January 2021)
Sue Baird (January 2017 – January 2022)
Jesse Buie (January 2016 – January 2021)
Tom Chapman (January 2015 – January 2020)
Lisa de Lima (January 2015 – January 2020)
James R. “Rick” Greenwood (May 2018 – January 2023)
A-dae Romero-Briones (January 2016 – January 2021)
Dan Seitz (January 2016 – January 2021)
Ashley Swaffar (January 2015 – January 2020)
Emily Oakley (January 2016 – January 2021)
Asa Bradman (January 2017 – January 2022)
Dave Mortensen (January 2017 – January 2022)

There are currently 14 board members since one resigned.

Introductions from Michelle Arsenault.
Paul Lewis, Director of Standards Division from the National Organic Program (NOP), opens the meeting.

This webinar was recorded and transcribed and will be part of the official record for the NOSB’s Spring 2019 meeting.

[In Cornucopia staff notes on individual comments below, our staff has included the commenter’s name and affiliation]

Deborah Attwood, Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Attorney, commenting on behalf of Pure Bioscience (Inaudible?).

Silver dihydrogen Citrate (SDC) should be included on the National List.

Anti-microbials would not be needed in an ideal world.  But in reality, salmonella and E. coli are everywhere.  These bacteria kill people.  Evaluation conducted by EPA and FDA considered risk.  SDC does not represent unreasonable risk of harm.

Q from Greenwood:   Salmonella is not everywhere. Concerned about those kinds of statements.  It is controlled by good growing practice and harvest.

A:   The fact remains that food borne pathogens still exist.  Look at the number of recalls related to produce.  We should be encouraging good growing practices.  Anti-microbials are one method.

Q from Harriet:  Can you tell what other sanitizers are typically used in rotation?

A:  Anti-microbials and sanitizers can be used at a number of different stages and different ones have different approvals.   Depending on the point at which you want to use the anti-microbial, you can use the one best suited to your product to address the issues of a particular concern.

Q from Harriet:   Have you looked at Consumers Union comments?

A:  Silver has a long history of being used in medical applications and that lengthy history is good evidence that anti-microbial resistance to silver is not easy for bugs to develop.  Science on anti-microbial resistance is advancing and is a huge issue FDA is looking at.  Evidence for silver contributing to anti-microbial resistance is low risk on the whole spectrum.

Jane DeMarchi, American Seed Trade Association

Represents over 700 members.

Commenting on 3 different proposals.

Excluded methods:  concerned about criteria about excluded methods and is worried about reduced seed availability.

Genetic integrity proposal:  marketplace is best place to test genetic integrity.

Seed usage:  strong supporter of 3 sources; concerned about requirements for non-gmo declarations.

Q from Harriet:   In addressing genetic integrity, you factor in cost of testing, but you mention many suppliers are already doing the testing.  Have heard from farmers they are getting rejected because they are getting contaminated seed so they want a baseline of what they’re starting out with.  Wondering since so many organic seed producers are already doing testing, why not provide the farmers information?

A:  If a grower has to do own testing, then there is an additional testing expense.  There have been different conversations about what to test for, which would drive up cost as well.  Open to discussions about making testing data available, but have to be mindful of costs that could add to cost of seed.

Francis Thicke, Real Organic Project (ROP)

Speaking for ROP about the Origin of Livestock Rule.  We have an ongoing national crisis in the dairy world.  Many dairy farmers are going bankrupt. Family farmers are struggling and the failure of Origin of Livestock Rule is to blame.  Some certifiers allow continuous transition of conventional herds to organic, while others do not permit this.  USDA had it right in the proposed rule that was never enacted. The NOP should issue a directive to certifiers that continuous transition of dairy animals is no longer allowed.

Q from Dan:  Board shares your concerns. Do you see any steps NOSB can take, or is it entirely up to the NOP?

A:  NOSB needs to continue to prod the NOP.   We have a crisis out there and need help.

Q from Harriet:  If NOP does not have final rule out by 2022, what is the outlook?

A:   We’ll see growing of CAFO organic dairies and loss of family dairies.

Harriet:   NOP needs to move this quickly – sooner than 2 or 3 years from now.

Elizabeth Miller, Minto Island Growers


Michael Huber, ICL Specialty Products, Inc.

ICL manufactures phosphates.

SAP and Potassium phosphate have GRAS status and numerous benefits in food production.

NO questions.

Jim Paskind, Salm Partners

Makes sausage products with collagen gel.  Supports adding collagen gel to National List. This will increase market demand for organic sausage.   Currently, the only casing option for organic sausage is processed intestine and there is currently no opportunity for organic sausage with collagen gel.  Collagen gel would allow things like 100% chicken sausage and organic kosher beef products.   Allowing collagen gel will increase market for organic meats and demand for organic livestock growers.

Q from Harriet:  Can collagen gel be kept refrigerated or frozen until enough of it? Does freezing it degrade it?

A:  Currently refrigeration extends shelf-life to about 6 months.   Freezing is not an option because of separation issues.

Sam Harden, Engineer, Pure Bioscience

Experience with wastewater treatment plants and SDC.

Q from Steve:   Would there be a discharge of no silver in the sludge described?

A:  Vast majority of silver ion would be in the form of salt. In thinking about where it’s traveling to and the abundance of organic material, the likelihood that it would be mobile to travel to ground water source is not of great concern.

Q:   Are there any studies that show accumulation of silver as goes up food chain?

A:  Not aware of any.

Jessica (Inaudible), Farmer Rep of OFA

Small farmer in Washington state who has produced vegetables.  She wants to make sure the NOP continues with integrity.  She doesn’t want consumers to lose confidence in organic label. Also, here to speak for OFA and is very concerned about hydroponic production.

Q from Harriet:  Do you think your customers care about hydroponics?

A:  Lots of different types of customers are interested in knowing their farmer.  There will be more opportunities for small farms if restaurants are not buying from high input facilities.

Harold Austin  (NOSB alumni)

Refers the NOSB to written comments and emphasizes the need for essential materials.  There is a legal and moral obligation to provide the safest organic product for the consumer.

Statement from Harriet:  Board is considering sanitizers under review. Might find areas of gaps and considering where new products fit in the constellation of what we already have and what we need.

Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist, Consumer Reports

Refers to extensive written comments. Discusses transposons and techniques that are not “methods” and should not be considered.  Naturally occurring transposons are not a “method.”

Opposes SDC given concerns about antibiotic resistance and because it is not essential for organic production.

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