What’s at Stake at Next Week’s National Organic Standards Board Meeting?
By Melody Meyer
It’s spring time in the Rockies and I will be heading to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) biannual meeting which provides an opportunity for organic stakeholders to give input on proposed recommendations and discussions. These meetings can decide the fate of organic farming and manufacturing for many years to come. Indeed the very future of organic is held in the hands of the 15 individuals on the board.
So it’s important to show up.
I attend each meeting to make public comment, and network with colleagues. Of greater import, I show up to listen and learn to get a read on the openness of our organic process. Will we move forward with new ideas, common sense and thoughtful leadership? Or will organic be reduced to its purist smallest self to placate those who seek perfection over the greater good of the movement? There is much at stake this year and I am eternally hungry for the outcome.
Organic production isn’t accomplished by doing nothing; instead inputs, amendments, innovative techniques and processes are constantly needed. So the matter at hand is how many tools we include in the toolbox to insure purity as well as the continued growth of organic acreage and farmers.
A thoughtful balance must be achieved when considering adding or deleting items from the allowed list of inputs. Organic farmers need a complete and well equipped toolbox to build the infrastructure of healthy soils and vital crops.
Some of the items I will be watching closely are:
The Handling & Crops Committees will review a group of input materials that may “sunset” from the national list of allowed inputs. I believe materials that have been placed onto the National List for use in handling should remain on the national list if they are still essential to and compatible with organic production and handling practices and there are no commercially available alternative materials. These decisions must be transparent, and based on the best current information and in the interest of the organic sector and public at large.
The question of whether hydroponics, bioponics and container growing should be allowed as certified organic will be ongoing with vociferous dialogue on both sides. If these production methods are denied organic certification, what will become of the hundreds of family farmers who are already producing certified organic crops using these methods?
The essential discussion is around soil: should all organic products be grown exclusively in the ground? Can soil biology and the preservation of resources be achieved with innovative organic methods? I will be listening with rapt attention to where we land.
The board will delve into a discussion on converting virgin natural ecosystems into organic production. I will urge the NOSB to eliminate the incentive to convert native unspoiled ecosystems into organic crop production. Certain native lands can easily be certified without undergoing the three year transition process. I believe some native ecosystems should be protected -- even from organic.
The ongoing dialogue is the nexus of traditional beliefs laid down in the first regulations and a collision of new technologies and innovative ways of producing food. It’s a plexus of the old nerves and blood vessels carrying young blood to the organic movement through new pathways. Can we get innovative juices to new areas of the agronomic body?
I think Organic is in its adolescence stage, waiting to burst forth into maturity. The organic standards must be nurtured, spoon-fed, fertilized, hybridized and organized with enough nourishment so that the adolescent can continue to grow. That growth must come from balanced consideration of the future while rooted in visions of the past.
Organic is the most transparent, public open source standard in the world. Let’s be accessible to creativity and let’s not reject progress for attaining perfection. We need to allow for the most progressive and positive tools for organic farmers. If we are to eliminate toxic pesticides from our food system we must grow organic to more than 2% of US agriculture.
The next NOSB meeting is open to the public. It begins Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 8:30 a.m. and ends Friday, April 21, 2017 at 6:00 p.m., at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. If you are a Twitter user you can follow along with the hashtag #NOSB.
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