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Strong Organic Food Practices Need Your Voice Now
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will meet this month to decide on a range of issues regarding the future of organic food and farming in the U.S. The NOSB will vote to allow or prohibit substances and practices in certified organic food and farming after considering input from the public. Your participation is vital to this process. Public input can be highly influential to the development of organic standards, as farmers and consumers relay their ideas to the board for consideration, but only if you speak up. The public comment period closes after this Sunday, Nov. 13. Take Action.
There is a wide range of issues that the board is considering for this meeting including pest control materials, inputs in processed food, internal board procedures and many others. You can access background on these issues on our Keeping Organic Strong webpage and then send comments to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by the end of day, Nov. 13.
Submit your comments using this form. This will bring you to a form in which you can fill out your personal information and type your comments. When filling out your personal information, you only need to fill in the fields with a blue asterisk next to the label. Other fields, such as Submitter’s Representative and Government Agency should be left blank. Under Organization Name, enter the name of the group you are representing, “None” or “Private Citizen” if you are representing only yourself. You may then type your comment or upload it as a separate file. Finish by clicking the orange Submit button.
We recommend using these guidelines and referring back to the organic law in order to organize your thoughts in your comments. As our comments demonstrate, this will help to clearly and succinctly lay out your points and make it easier for NOSB members to follow your reasoning.
Here is our commentary on just a few of the pressing issues under consideration:
The Policy Development Committee has proposed a recommendation that would enhance the transparency of the NOSB’s committee meetings and decision processes. Specifically, the committee has recommended that full, accurate minutes be taken on Committee meetings and conference calls that reflect the source of positions taken on issues, and that minutes, reports, transcripts, and other documents related to board decisions be made freely accessible to the public in hard copy as well as electronically through the World Wide Web. We fully support this recommendation and encourage further transparency in any way it can be achieved. The development or organic standards is intended to be a public stakeholder process in which anyone who has an interest in organic integrity and the future of the organic sector can also have a voice in the process. Increased transparency allows interested parties to give more informed and effective input, leading to more agreeable results for all involved.
A petition was submitted to the Crops Committee to allow propane to be exploded in burrows in order to control underground rodents. We support the Committee’s decision to deny the petition and not allow such explosions for a number of reasons. Firstly, exploding underground burrows does not fall under any category of allowed synthetic substances in the Organic Foods Production Act.
Beyond the legal considerations, controlling rodents by essentially bombing their habitats is wildly inconsistent with organic principles and ideals of minimizing environmental impact and encouraging beneficial natural interactions. Such practices would kill or harm any organisms in the surrounding area, including those in the soil, as well a number of beneficial endangered species which also burrow or live underground. The potential for causing fires and the safety risks to the operator are further concerns around the use of propane devices.
There is also a full range of alternative materials and methods already allowed in organic systems which can effectively control rodents, including habitat modification, traps, introduction of predators (such as dogs), rodenticide baits and many others. These alternatives, in a more effective and less costly manner, achieve with management what propane would achieve with off-farm synthetic inputs.
Because of the likely widespread damage to ecosystems, the availability of alternatives, and the unpredictable nature of the use of such a material combined with its questionable efficacy, we strongly recommend supporting the committee’s decision and denying the use of this material.
The Materials Committee proposed a discussion document which “shares the committee’s current thinking on a process to collect, prioritize and maintain research needs related to organic production methods and materials.” We are happy to see the NOSB address the issue of setting research priorities. Like the committee, we welcome the prospect of a process that will help bring more research efforts to troublesome problems in organic production and handling. We look forward to a time when disagreements will be decreased by the availability of research into alternatives that everyone can support.
We would also particularly like to request better quality control over the technical reviews that are received by the committees scientifically evaluating particular substances with regards to their compatibility with organic systems. These reviews are highly influential in the board’s evaluation of particular substances and they should fully address all of the pertinent issues. We would support a return to the use of Technical Advisory Panels such as were used in previous years, which incorporate more diverse viewpoints and expertise.
Here are the rest of the issues for this meeting:
– Copper Sulfate
– List 3 Inert Ingredients
– Ammonium Nonanoate
– Peracetic Acid
– Calcium Chloride
– Indole-3-butyric Acid (IBA)
– Organic Aquaculture
– Sulfites in Wine
– ARA and DHA
– Public Comment Procedures
– Conflict of Interest Policy
We encourage you to use and build upon our commentary in making your own comments.
We share your enthusiasm for organic practices as the solution to pesticide pollution, to advance clean food, air, water and a sustainable environment—and want to ensure that organic grows stronger every day. But, this won’t happen without your involvement.
For more information, click here.
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.