Several new board members got down to business, Carrageenan was a Hot Topic, and an Expert Panel discussed Hydroponics.

By Alesia Bock, AgriSystems International

Since there were relatively few Sunset 2018 materials up for initial review, time was devoted to important discussions on the future of carrageenan on the National List, and whether Hydroponic/Bioponic methods are consistent with Organic Agriculture standards.

Washington D.C. (April 25th -27th, 2016) – This past Spring NOSB Meeting in Washington D.C. had a full agenda, including NOP/NOSB updates, plenty of public comment, expert testimony on hydroponics/bioponics, and a review of the Sunset 2018 materials – this was the initial discussion based on any public comment received so far. The final vote will occur at the Fall 2016 meeting – November 16th-18th in St. Louis MO. We’ve provided links at the bottom of this article on how to provide public comments.

USDA National Organic Program (NOP) Update:

NOP Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy provided an update on key initiatives. The USDA Organic Integrity Database has been revamped to include better search capability and monthly updates, along with several training webinars being offered on how to navigate the certified entity database. Future enhancements may include one certificate format for all certifiers to use, and e-certificates available online.


The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has extended the comment period for the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Proposed Rule until July 13th, 2016. The proposal aims to ensure consistent application of the USDA organic regulations for organic livestock and poultry operations and maintain confidence in the organic seal. The changes are based on recommendations by the NOSB after incorporating years of public comment and stakeholder suggestions.

Organic Livestock and Poultry Proposed Rule 


There was much discussion on hydro/bioponics as to whether their methods are consistent with Organic requirements.   Are closed loop systems that use inputs vs. soil “organic or not”? Expert panelists testified on their points to NOSB, and majority of public comment on this topic appeared to be AGAINST allowing these types of systems to be certified organic.

Other topics received comments including the proposed animal welfare standards, and certifier peer reviews – many testified that the arbitrary “annual” review was cost and resource prohibitive and argued for a “risk-based review” every 2-3 years and allow previously completed reviews and/or client feedback to count. Also discussed in depth was the sunset review of carrageenan – comments both for and against. It appears to be of the most complex votes that NOSB will take up at the November meeting.

2018 SUNSET REVIEW (1 of 2): this meeting was the first review, and final votes will happen at the Fall 2016 meeting. Links below for how to make public comments – and highlighted are the materials that the board specifically asked for more comment in order to make an informed vote. Stakeholders MUST provide support to keep a material on the list – “no support = no need”. Comments can be made in writing at, via webinar prior to the meeting, or in person at the meeting in November. Link provided below for meeting location.

As a reminder of new Sunset process, the NOSB board must have two-thirds of members vote in FAVOR of the MOTION TO REMOVE a material from the National List.

So far, the board appears inclined to KEEP the following materials on the list:


Animal Enzymes

Calcium Sulfate-mined


Tartaric acid

Silicon Dioxide


Peracetic Acid

So far, the board is inclined to REMOVE the following materials from the list unless additional public feedback is submitted:

Potassium Hydroxide (potash)

EPA list 3 inerts — NOP/EPA joint task force in process to discuss this list.

Calcium Chloride



Carrageenan – much debate, no clear direction.

Cellulose – is an additional annotation needed?

Beta-carotene natural color – is it needed if annatto/turmeric, etc are available?

Copper Sulfate – looking for additional environmental impact studies.

PETITIONS – reviewed and PASSED:

Hypochlorous Acid – Electrolyzed Water as petitioned – APPROVED for use in handling, crops, and livestock.

Lactates (potassium and sodium) for meat processing (antimicrobials) – APPROVED

Squid/Squid by products – approved but removed “Squid”

PETITIONS – reviewed and FAILED:

Oat Beta Glucan

Ash from Manure Burning

PETITIONS – reviewed and BACK TO COMMITTEE for more information:

SDBS as a sanitizer for Foodservice and Retail establishments

Soy Wax

Link to full meeting summary here:

OTA 2016 Spring Meeting Summary

The next National Organic Standards Board meeting is being held in St. Louis Missouri on November 16th-18th, 2016. Link to location here:

Alesia Bock is the Owner/ Managing Director of AgriSystems International, providing consulting services related to organic certification and sustainable business development for food growers and processors. Over her 25-year career in Quality & Regulatory in the food industry, she has dedicated the last 15 years to increasing the availability of natural/organic options for consumers. She can be reached at