NOSB reconsiders the use of some non-organic substances in organic certified products

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

NOSB reconsiders the use of some non-organic substances
Curating the National List of non-organic substances that are allowed in products certified as organic is a core responsibility of the National Organic Standards Board, and as such stakeholders will lobby the USDA advisory board to add and delete several ingredients at its semi-annual meeting in Denver this week. 

A few of the substances up for discussion were points of disagreement at the last NOSB meeting, including tocopherols and marine algae, according to materials published ahead of the event.

The Handling Subcommittee will propose NOSB expand the allowable source for tocopherols, from vegetable oil when rosemary extracts are not a suitable alternative to plant oils more generally. It also wants to encourage the future use of organic tocopherols by adding a slightly more restrictive clause that producers should use non-synthetic or organic tocopherols when commercially available.

The Organic Trade Association sees these changes as a “step in the right direction because it will, for the first time, require industry to at least source natural and/or organic forms”​ of tocopherol, which the trade group says it hopes will in turn incentivize more organic production of the ingredient.

Also by expanding the option to source tocopherols from plant oils, versus vegetable oils, more non-synthetic and organic processed forms will be possible.

The Cornucopia Institute is not as optimistic about the change, saying in a statement that it believes synthetic tocopherols should be removed from the National List all together “to incentivize the increase in the commercial availability of natural and organic tocopherols.”​ It also reasons the change is important because “consumers don’t want to buy organic food with non-organic ingredients when organic options are available.”

NOSB also will continue a conversation from the last meeting about nine marine materials on the National List that overlap in species and lack scientific clarity. Per the suggestion of several stakeholders at that meeting, NOSB will discuss annotating the marine algae listings with their Latin binomials and will recommend that the National Organic Program develop guidance to clarify the term “kelp”​ in production and harvesting.

Crop sunset substances

NOSB also will review several crop and livestock related substances, including the use of copper sulfate and fixed copper, which The Cornucopia Institute says are “among the most hazardous materials for workers used in organic production.”

As such, Cornucopia argues NOSB should restrict the use of copper products only as fungicides when “absolutely necessary”​ and ensure “they do not leave visible residues on crops in the field.”

OTA reports that several members use copper not only as a fungicide, but also to stop leaf curl in stone fruits, as a fertilizer when deficiency is documented and to curb downey mildew in spinach.

Other substances up for review under crop production include chlorine materials, soap-based herbicides, biodegradable bio-based mulch film, boric acid, sticky traps/barriers, humic acid, micronutrients, vitamins, lead salts and tobacco dust.

Potential changes for livestock

Also on the list for organic livestock is the use of lidocaine and procaine as pain-relievers, which have been the source of controversy in the past​. 

Cornucopia will urge NOSB to remove procaine from the list because it is not as widely available or effective as lidocaine, and as a result “having it on the National List likely creates confusion.”

Other substance up for sunset review in livestock production including chlorine materials, chlorhexidine, glucose, oxytocin, tolazoline and copper sulfate. Also under processing and handling are attapulgite, bentonite, diatomaceous earth, nitrogen, sodium carbonate, acidified sodium chlorite, carbon dioxide, chlorine materials, magnesium chloride, potassium acid tartrate, sodium phosphates, casings, konjac flour and pectin.

In addition, NOSB will consider a petition from Nature’s One to add to the National List L-Methionine for use in nutritionally complete pediatric enteral formulas based on soy protein.

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