By Jonathan Benson
We are quickly approaching a pivotal moment for the future of organics, as the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) readies to meet this spring to discuss a number of important agenda items spanning two sessions. Because of the federal government shutdown last fall, the NOSB skipped its semiannual meeting at that time, which means it will now be addressing two meetings’ worth of policy issues at its next gathering.
CI challenging elimination of ‘sunset clause,’ which protects organic integrity
Among these issues are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) attempted power grab concerning the approval process for certain synthetic substances in organic production when natural alternatives are unavailable. As you may recall, National Organic Program (NOP) Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy issued a memo last fall arbitrarily changing the rules for the “sunset process” of non-organic and synthetic materials in organics, taking control of the process away from vested stakeholders.
The rule change, explains the Winter 2013 issue of the Cornucopia Institute’s (CI) The Cultivator newsletter, changes the process from requiring a two-thirds vote to approve the continued use of non-organic and synthetic substances after five years, to requiring a two-thirds vote to remove these substances after five years. In other words, the new standards will provision the use of prohibited substances in organics as the norm rather than the exception.
“The new policy allows a subcommittee of the Board to renew materials, thereby reducing public input and transparency,” explains CI, which is raising awareness about the change and pushing to have it overturned. “This change in policy was undertaken without public comment and without the participation of the NOSB.”