National Organic Program and the NOSB at Work

by Amy Porter on October 1, 2011

Do you know who the governing board is for Organic Produce?  If you said the FDA, you don’t have the whole picture.   We have a National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) that reports to the National Organic Program (NOP).  In case you are wondering (I was) our organic rules are an agreement with those in Canada (that happened this summer) and with Europe (happened in 2009).  We now all use the same rules.

Why I’m posting about the NOSB and NOP is that they met, first the NOSB in April, then the NOP in August to make and approve recommendations on chemicals, vitamins and other things that were being reviewed this year.  Here is a brief summary.  The quoted text either comes directly from the report or from Steve Hoffman who writes an incredible enewsletter on current organic (and other) topics.  The entire report can be downloaded.  I do recommend downloading it.  It’s one of those reports that made me want to start researching their other finds.

Explanation: Sunset 2012

“The NOSB is mandated by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 to review all substances listed on the National List and determine if their exemptions or prohibitions should be renewed for another five years; this is referred to as Sunset. During their Sunset review, the NOSB evaluated the available technical information, public comments, and alternative products for the final 28 material listings scheduled to expire in 2012. The NOSB then voted to renew twenty material listings, amend six material listings, and remove two material listings”.

Chlorine materials

The NOP accepts, with a slight modification, the NOSB’s recommendation to relist chlorine materials with an amended annotation.

As per Steve Hoffman (, “While NOP will ask for more public input on the use of chlorine at EPA-approved levels in edible sprout production, it found it unnecessary to include “disinfecting tools or equipment” in the NOSB annotation. The annotation only applies to the use of chlorine in direct contact with crops or irrigation water, NOP said in its memorandum.”

(I find it interesting that the edible sprout people don’t have to tell us that they are using chlorine on the sprouts.)

Nutrient vitamins and minerals

The NOSB Handling Committee was tasked with reviewing the nutrient vitamin and minerals listing.  The NOP wanted a clear list of which nutrient vitamins and minerals are acceptable to certifiers, consumers and the organic trade.  They hope to publish a proposed rule for the Sunset 2012 listing for nutrients vitamins and minerals for foods and infant formula.  It would not include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), arachidonic acid (ARA), taurine, lutein, choline, and inositol.  These are not allowed under the current annotation; and have had to petitioned the NOSB separately to be considered at a later date.


  • The NOP rejected the use of Nickel in Crops
  • They rejected the use of Calcium Acid Pyrophosphate,

and Expanded Use of Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate in Handling


The NOP extended the expiration date for using Tetracycline on fire blighted apples and pears.

“The NOSB is concerned that the continued use of antibiotics in organic—even when limited to apples and pears—creates antibiotic resistance and allows producers to continue to grow varietals that are highly susceptible to fire blight instead of selecting naturally resistant ones. However, the NOSB received many public comments stating that alternative treatments for fire blight are not effective, that all pear and apple varietals are susceptible to fire blight to some extent, and that less susceptible varietals are not palatable to consumers. Therefore, to avoid negatively impacting the organic tree fruit industry, the NOSB recommended extending the expiration date to October 21, 2014.”

This is something I still don’t understand.  It appears that fruit can be sprayed with Tetracycline and still be considered organic and the general public doesn’t have to be notified.  What if someone is allergic to Tetracycline?  They can’t ask their grocer, “Do you know if these apples or pears come from a fire blighted area and were sprayed with Tetracycline?”

I do think the Organic Consumer need to know that the NOP considers produce being sprayed with Tetracycline and chlorine as acceptable under the organic designation; and that they don’t think it is noteworthy to let the general populous know.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: