State College, Pa. – Food safety and the lack of effective natural alternatives influenced the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board at its April meeting in State College, Pa. A major task of the board was recommending whether or not to retain certain synthetic substances on the national list of approved and prohibited substances in organic production and handling.
Disinfectants. Concern over potential contamination of produce, along with the continued need to sanitize and disinfect facilities and equipment, led to the affirmative vote to recommend continued use of the chlorine materials calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite and chlorine dioxide. The residual chlorine in the water cannot exceed the maximum disinfectant limits allowed by the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Renewal of hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer and for disease control was also recommended.
Livestock medications. In a close vote, the board voted to renew ivermectin as a parasiticide, allowed in emergency treatment for dairy and breeder stock when organic preventive management does not prevent infestation. It is prohibited in slaughter stock.
Oxytocin also produced a split vote in favor of renewing. The livestock committee agreed with supporters that it can be compatible with organic practices and is essential for the health and welfare of organic livestock.
Lisa Engelbert, a dairy farmer from New York, said oxytocin is abused.
The board stipulated it be administrated by a veterinarian.
Tree fruit. Miles McEvey of the Washington Department of Agriculture told the board organic apples and pears need streptomycin and tetracyline (oxytetracycline calcium complex) to control fire blight. Penn State’s fruit research reports fire blight as the most serious pear disease in the eastern U. S.
With board member Joe Smillie noting that organic alternatives are under development, the board’s split vote recommended renewal for fireblight control only.
The Environmental Protection Agency regulates both substances.
Synthetic milk replacers. Because of the availability of non-synthetic alternatives, the board voted to not recommend renewing synthetic milk replacers on the list.
Pennsylvania Certified Organic urged renewal of synthetic milk replacers for emergency use, pointing to the lack of alternatives in this region. However, other commenters, including Engelbert, suggested removing synthetic milk replacers. Engelbert said consumers might change their buying habits with continued use of substances that could contain antibiotics.
Other materials. Extensive favorable comments spurred the retention of hydrated lime to control plant diseases and for external pest control for livestock. The use does not permit cauterizing physical alterations or deodorizing of animal wastes.
Aquatic plant extracts, limited to the amount necessary for extraction, were recommended.
Humic acids, in naturally occurring deposits, water and alkali extracts only, also were recommended for renewal.
Although several board members voiced concern over the synthetic nature of effective horticultural oils and dissented, the board went with a recommendation of the oils for insecticides and plant disease control.
Lignin sulfonate and sodium silicate also received affirmative votes for retention. No synthetic alternative is available for lignin sulfonate’s use as a chelating agent, dust suppressant and floatation agent, and as a plant and soil amendment. Tree fruit growers urged renewal of sodium silicate as a floating agent for post-harvest handling.
Next step. At the conclusion of the voting, Kevin O’Rell, board chairman, said he was pleased with the progress made. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will issue final rules.
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