Notes from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
meeting in Portland, Oregon, April 9 -11, 2013
By Ed Maltby, Executive Director, NODPA
Added May 20, 2013. The meeting of the National Organic Standards Board, which occurs twice a year, provided a public forum for the organic community to weigh in on issues concerning organic production and processing. The controversial and much discussed petition that tetracycline be put back on the National List and the existing expiration date of October 21, 2014 be removed attracted a great deal of public attention and comment at the meeting. In considering the petition the NOSB Crops Subcommittee recommended instead a new proposal for an extension of use of tetracycline to October 2016 with the condition that it may only be used if the grower has implemented an integrated system of practices and materials to control fire blight. Their recommendation also stated that orchard management systems must demonstrate an annual increase in the extent or number of alternative practices for managing fire blight.
When this proposal was put in front of the full NOSB, the subcommittee proposal was defeated which meant that Tetracycline use on tree fruit will not be allowed after October 2014. As the regulation stands right now, use of tetracycline (oxytet is the name growers know) will be prohibited after October 21, 2014. The proposal needed 2/3 vote in favor by all NOSB members to pass and it failed to meet that requirement with six members voting no. The NOSB members voting no were: Jay Feldman, Jean Richardson, Colehour Bondera, Jennifer Taylor, Calvin Walker, and Francis Thicke. All others voted yes for the extension.
Throughout the meeting there were discussions to reach a compromise because of the serious effect that a ban may have on farmers who are using it now and may have no alternatives for fire blight. There were many articulate statements by all the Board members as they grappled with the tension between consumer expectations, scientific knowledge and the practicality of organic production. Board members tried to introduce a longer, more specific motion on emergency use during the three years following expiration which was, surprisingly, never publically discussed by the public or debated by the Board. The NOSB did pass (unanimously) the following:
The NOSB requests that the NOP investigate the ability of the Secretary to invoke its authority under the “Emergency Spray Programs” provision of the Organic Foods Production, 7 U.S.C. 6518(k)(6) and Act 7 C.F.R section 205.672, to allow the emergency use of oxytetracycline for fire blight during the period of October 21, 2014 to October 21, 2017.
Miles McEvoy head of National Organic Program (NOP) stated that the program would have a lot to consider about the proposal for emergency use and would have to consult with its attorneys. He noted that the NOP’s provision about emergency provision had never been invoked before.
The other votes of the NOSB are summarized below:
GMO Ad Hoc Subcommittee