In the world of fresh organic produce, the National Organic Standards Board proposals to basically declare that bioponics (aeroponics, aquaponics and hydroponics) are ineligible for organic certification are getting the most play (see OPN newsletter of Sept. 28). However, the Fall Meetings, which will be held in Jacksonville, FL, October 31-November 1, will deal with many other proposals as well.
The NOSB is the advisory board for the entire National Organics Program, which covers all agricultural products, including livestock, grains and field crops. As such, the Fall Meetings have many proposals beyond the scope of fruits and vegetables, but several do concern the produce industry.
One proposal will eliminate the incentive to convert native ecosystems to organic production. Michele Arsenault, the USDA’s specialist for the NOSB, said that under NOP, land that has not been used for agricultural production, such as conservation land, had the potential to be immediately converted to organic production without a three year transition period. This created an incentive to convert this land to organic production. The proposals creates a 10-year waiting period from conversion to production, creating a disincentive to farm native ecosystems.
Another proposal seeks to further clarify and strengthen the regulations concerning who is excluded from certification along the supply chain. The discussion document indicates that with increased demand for organic products – including imported fresh fruits and vegetables – more products are finding their way to market in different ways. The proposal seeks to confirm that only handlers of packaged products that are labeled and remain unaltered throughout the supply chain qualify for exemption from organic certification.
Another proposals deal with strengthening the organic seed guidance. In discussing this proposal, the Crops Subcommittee opined: “The organic community has repeatedly noted that progress towards full adoption of organically grown seed in organic systems is too slow. While organic seed availability continues to improve, there has been inconsistent progress in the proportion of organic seed in use by many growers.”
The previous rules have basically required the use of organic seed, except in cases when it is not available. The new proposals place additional burdens on the producer to prove, and keep records, that a thorough search was conducted for organic seed and there is justification to use non-organic seed.
Still another proposal looks at research conducted under the NOP and creates a list of priorities for 2017 research dollars. One interesting new priority is to find a better way to produce celery under organic conditions that would yield celery powder with a sufficient nitrate content to cure meats organically.
As its last item on the agenda, the NOSB will further discuss the use of genetically-engineered materials in agriculture. The concept is that in the world of genetic engineering there has been an explosion of activity that needs to be examined. The discussion document states: “It is understood that genetic engineering is a rapidly expanding field in science at this time, and that the NOSB and the NOP will need to continually review new technologies to determine if they would or would not be acceptable in organic agriculture.”