This is an URGENT ACTION ALERT! The deadline for comments is this week.
The National Organic Standards Board will be meeting later this month in Louisville. Fundamental issues that will determine the future of organic foods will be discussed and voted upon.
The NOSB has proposed a new research priority: whether to prohibit BPA (the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A) in the packaging used for organic foods “in light of mounting evidence that it may be harmful.”
There have been calls for increased research on suitable alternatives, but as we have reported previously, many alternatives are as dangerous as BPA, if not worse. Just banning BPA without banning the almost-as-bad or the just-as-bad-or-worse alternatives won’t help. That is just sweeping the problem under the rug. More research is required to identify and promote truly viable substitutes.
It is vitally important that citizens support this research priority—it’s the first step to ultimately banning BPA in favor of safer solutions. Research should be conducted in a timely manner, followed by prompt rulemaking. Letting the research and rulemaking drag out indefinitely could be used as a delaying tactic, in the hope that the public will just forget about the BPA problem.
The NOSB is also engaged in researching the best way to handle GMO cross-contamination, as we discussed last year. We have found it troubling that in order to avoid GMO contamination, the burden falls on organic producers following best organic practices, not on farmers who use GMOs and actually do the cross-contamination. It’s been especially worrying since no final product testing of organic food is required to check for GMO contamination.
Encouragingly, the NOSB is now considering shifting some of the onus onto GMO producers and the agencies that oversee them, asking them to follow best practices to avoid contamination of organics (such as planting a safe distance away). However, the research is just in the preliminary stage, and there is no guarantee that it will have any “teeth” when the final rules are developed. Given the ubiquity of GMOs in the US, it appears that GMO contamination will be inevitable—as we saw in the GMO contamination of Oregon wheat fields—unless strong measures are taken. Now the same thing has happened in Montana, as we report in this article, also a part of this week’s issue of The Pulse.
The NOSB is considering broadening the definition of “genetically modified organism” to include new technologies. Current definitions, including the Codex definition, are narrow and don’t encompass emerging GMO methodologies.* ANH-USA supports a broader definition, which will help ensure that GMOs are not allowed to creep into organic food.
On the downside, the NOSB is delaying any discussion of banning GMO vaccines on organic livestock—an issue the board has been working on for over a year. The board is citing the lack of agreement on how GMOs are defined, together with the difficulties in properly identifying GMO vaccines, as reasons for the delay. They have not even agreed upon a timeline or next steps for this issue.
As for the list of ingredients allowed in organic foods, the NOSB’s committees have recommended that the sunset dates for synthetic ingredients currently on the list not be extended, and that new synthetic ingredients not be added to the list. You may recall that at their last meeting, the board considered extending the sunset date for an antibiotic used in organic production, but due to a public outcry, especially from our grassroots activists, the measure failed.
The importance of NOSB decisions cannot be underestimated. They will either protect or destroy the purity of organic criteria—standards that consumers can rely on in the face of factory farming, conventional farming and pest-abatement practices, and GMOs. We must be vigilant in the face of corporate interests taking over the organics industry. When organic certification became a government function, it opened the door to crony capitalists. We need to close that door.
ANH-USA will be submitting a formal comment; we may also attend the meeting to provide our comment orally. Urgent Action Alert! The deadline for submitting your comments is October 7, so please send your message to the NOSB today! Tell the board what your priorities are—to keep organic foods truly organic. Please take action immediately!
*Editer’s Note: Edited Oct 2, 2014.