Comments to NOSB
August 15, 2005
Tom Hutcheson, Associate Policy Director
Thank you for providing thoughtful recommended guidance on research exemptions. Please clarify the conditions under which products may enter organic commerce, specifically, whether NOSB’s recommendation allows for the organic sale of livestock raised organically except for having been fed some non-organic feed. This situation is not prohibited under 205.105 and is not a National List issue, so an exemption from the requirements of Section 205.237(a) seems to be possible.
Listing for Certified Agent’s Name on Packaged Products
OTA agrees that in the case presented of a voluntarily certified retailer, the certifier of a retailer be listed on a product as the final handler rather than the co-packer. Since there are only crop, livestock, and handler certifications, and not retail standards, voluntary retailer certification must be considered handler certification, and the retailer must be considered the final handler.
Restructuring the National List
OTA supports the recommendations as presented.
Agricultural and Non-agricultural
OTA appreciates the NOSB Handling Committee’s efforts to offer guidance on the subject of agricultural and nonagricultural substances, and respectfully request the following changes to the recommendations posted on July 14th:
Recommendation # 2 - We recommend changing the definition of a Nonagricultural substance to the following:
A substance, such as a mineral, that is not a biologically derived material produced through cultivation or propagation by humans.
Recommendation #3: - We support amending the Guidance Document and Decision Tree in accordance with our Rationale, below.
OTA supports the position that bacteria, yeasts, and other single-celled organisms, whether or not they are photosynthetic, are subject to being cultivated or propagated by humans for the purpose of providing a biologically derived material. Just as in cultivating a grain crop, farmers of these cultures must use spores (seed), provide proper nutrients, a good growing environment, quality control, and appropriate harvest and post-harvest handling methods. As such, these living organisms are as much the products of agriculture as a fish or a mushroom, to use two examples that have generated some debate.
The possibility of producing bacterial cultures, yeast, and similar products organically, including any metabolic products isolated from microbial cultures such as enzymes, should be available. We believe that such a possibility will be in the interests of the organic industry, in that it would stimulate demand for other organic agricultural products used as substrates for microbial cultures, and more importantly, generate products of higher quality for organic consumers.
OTA has long recognized the need to address compost and related issues more fully and appreciates NOSB’s recommendations. One question that arose after the publication of the final rule was the suitability of the definition of compost. The definition in the Re-proposed Rule of December, 2000 was based on NRCS Practice Standard 317, and while some farmers were so skeptical about the requirements for a “facility” and the implicit prohibition of vermicomposting that OTA agreed a different approach might work better, subsequent communication with NRCS resulted in OTA’s understanding that the NRCS standard might be a better template than the current standard in the Final Rule, which we understand is based on EPA regulations. We hope NOSB has considered the option of recommending practices closer to those presented in the Re-proposed Rule, which could prove significantly less onerous to farmers. If NOSB has not considered an option along those lines, OTA suggests that such an option ought to be considered before presenting a final recommendation. If NOSB believes the current definition of compost ought to be retained, though, the guidance presented here is an excellent step forward.
Maintaining or Improving Natural Resources—Biodiversity
OTA has been a supporter of the Wild Farm Alliance’s work on this issue since 2003 and is pleased to support this recommendation.
Commercial Availability of Organic Seed
Regarding the commercial availability of organic seed, OTA supports the comments of Richard Siegel, especially as they represent the position of OTA member seed companies. For a matter as important to the supply chain as organic seed, and since records are already being kept, requiring the certifier report those exceptions from the rule on an annual basis does not seem overly burdensome. In addition, further guidance from NOSB and NOP is necessary so that both growers and seed producers may rely on a consistent interpretation of “commercial availability”.
National List Materials Sunset
OTA greatly appreciates all the work NOSB has done and is continuing to do to move materials through the sunset review process. For your information, OTA has commented that the Proposed Rule which follows the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking should include all materials listed in the ANPR, together with a brief discussion of which materials received comments during the ANPR comment period and whether those comments were positive or negative.
Synthetic and non-synthetic
Please note that OTA’s comments on NOSB’s “Clarification on the Definition of Synthetic” draft guidance document are being presented by Kim Dietz. Thank you very much for your consideration.