An October meeting between the National Organic Standards Board and the National Organic Program staff finally resolved the status of four rescinded government directives that have caused uproar and confusion in the organic industry since April, according to those who attended the meeting.
The directives were largely seen as weakening standards relating to organic dairy production, seafood and pesticide use. Many in the industry expressed confusion even after the directives were rescinded.
?The status appears to be cleared up. The various committees made their recommendations, and the NOP accepted all the recommendations and will draft new guidance consistent with the NOSB recommendations,? said Rebecca Goldburg, Ph.D., a senior scientist for Environmental Defense and a member of the NOSB.
Goldburg said the directives were settled in a way that seems to please most of the organic community.
Joe Mendelson III, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the NOP, turned the corner at the October meeting. ?They agreed with the majority of our complaints about the directives and agreed to change them accordingly.? But Mendelson remained cautious in his optimism, saying, ?Actions certainly speak louder than words. In the past we?ve heard good words, but haven?t seen the follow-up actions.? He said he would remain vigilant in assuring that the promised changes actually take place.
The changes to the directives came out of the most cooperative meeting of the NOSB and NOP staff yet, according to those in attendance.
?The atmosphere at [previous] NOSB meetings has been very contentious—ugly, actually,? said Joe Smillie, senior vice president of Quality Assurance International. ?The biggest thing [at this meeting] was the collegial atmosphere.? The board listened to six hours of public comment, much of it related to regulation of aquaculture and pet food.
The board will develop task forces to determine whether organic standards should be written for aquaculture, wild-caught seafood or pet food, and will write drafts of regulations if necessary. Jim Riddle, who was elected chairman of the NOSB at the October meeting, said a Federal Register notice would be published seeking nominees for these task forces.
Smillie said it could be awhile before any new regulations are put in place, and in the meantime, retailers should act according to their own principles. ?It?s going to take time,? he said. ?There are going to be bumps in the road.?
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 12/p. 7