Good Fruit Grower

February 15

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Diseases & Disorders How the NOSB makes decisions The National Organic Standards Board has the ultimate say over which materials can be used in organic agriculture. F by Geraldine Warner T he National Organic Standards Board is a federal advisory committee that makes the decisions on which inputs can be used in organic agriculture. Generally, natural products are allowed in organic agriculture while synthetic products are not, but the Organic Food Production Act permits exceptions. Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator for the National Organic Program, said the NOSB has statutory authority over the national list, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cannot add synthetic products to the list without the NOSB���s recommendation. A synthetic product is defined in the Organic Food Production Act as a substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources. Substances created by naturally occurring biological processes are not considered synthetic. A natural, or nonsynthetic substance, on the other hand, is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process. Because there are often arguments as to whether a product is natural or synthetic, the USDA is working on guidance to clarify how to determine if something is natural or synthetic, McEvoy said. Much of the confusion surrounds processing methods. For example, if a material is extracted from a natural source, such as rocks or plants, but is then processed into a different form, does that make it a synthetic product? There have been questions about whether materials such as agricultural processing waste are natural or synthetic. McEvoy said the guidelines should be out this winter. Oxytetracycline The NOSB meets twice a year to consider the recommendations of its six committees relating to the listing of materials. The next meeting will be at the Hilton Portland and Executive Tower in Portland, Oregon, April 8 to 11. One of the agenda items will be the organic exemption for the antibiotic oxytetracycline for control of fireblight in apples and pears, which is set to expire in October 2014. Tree fruit industry organizations have petitioned for it to be reinstated on the approved organic materials list. After the NOSB makes a recommendation to add a product to the list, the USDA begins the rule-making process and puts out the proposed rule for public comment, which is considered before the final rule is issued. However, the NOSB���s decision and the comments it receives, matter more than the comments the USDA receives, McEvoy told growers at the Washington State Horticultural Association���s annual meeting in December. ���For instance, if the board recommends that tetracycline can���t be used after 2014 and we put out the proposed rule that says that, and we get lots of comments that say, ���That���s ridiculous, we need to extend it to 2015 or 2017,��� we can���t do that based on the public comment we get.��� That���s why, he said, it���s important that growers be involved in both parts of the process and make comments to the NOSB as well as the USDA. ���The USDA cannot allow tetracycline to be used in organic fruit production if the NOSB does not approve an extension,��� he stressed. As well as providing written comments, interested parties can sign up to testify to the board during the April meeting. No limit has been set on the number of people who can testify, McEvoy said. At previous meetings, as many as 200 people have had the opportunity to speak. The NOSB meets at different places around the country to encourage broad public input, and Portland was selected as the venue for this meeting specifically to allow public or information about the NOSB and its upcoming meeting, go to www. and click on ���National Organic Program��� in the list on the left of the page. input concerning oxytetracycline. When considering whether to approve a material for organic use, the NOSB considers the following: ���Are there adverse impacts on either humans or the environment? ���Is it essential for organic production? ���Is the substance compatible with organic production practices? The board also considers the following criteria, as specified in the Organic Foods Production Act: ���The potential for detrimental chemical interactions with other materials ���The toxicity and mode of action of the substance and of its breakdown products or any contaminants and their persistence in the environment ���The probability of environmental contamination during the manufacture, use, or misuse or disposal of the product ���Its effect on human health ���Its effects on biological and chemical interactions in the agroecosystem, including the physiological effects of the substance on soil organisms, crops, and livestock ���Alternatives to using the substance in terms of practices or other available materials ���Compatibility with sustainable agriculture systems McEvoy said some members of the board place great emphasis on whether a product is really necessary because of the unavailability of wholly natural substances. They have questioned whether tetracycline is really needed for fireblight control in apple and pear production and whether it is consistent with organic farming and handling. ��� WHY the National Organic Standards Board made its decision I n 2011, when the National Organic Standards Board made a formal recommendation to the National Organic Program to permit oxytetracyline for fireblight control in apples and pears only until October 21, 2014, the board stated the following: That its Crops Committee was presented with evidence that tetracycline antibiotics can contribute to antibiotic resistance in human pathogens when used as pesticides on plants. Evidence the board cited included: ���A 2010 study of tetracycline resistance in Salmonella strains recovered from irrigation water in Mexico ���A 1976 report on changes in intestinal flora of farm personnel after introduction of a tetracycline-supplemented feed on a farm ���A Wikipedia article about tetracycline ���A Proposition 65 materials list from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment That additional products are available for use against fireblight, such as Serenade Max, Bloomtime Biological FD, BlightBan C9-1, and Blightban A506. Literature cited were: ���A 2007 article on using Pseudomonas spp. for integrated biological control by Dr. Virginia Stockwell at Oregon State University, which discusses how Blightban506 can be used in combination with antibiotics to control fireblight ������Fireblight: the search for better control,��� a 1998 report in which Dr. Herb Aldwinckle at Cornell University, New York, stated that, ���There is no single control measure for fireblight that will totally eradicate the disease, provide an absolute cure, or fully protect an orchard. However, by integrating several orchard management practices, fireblight damage can be kept to a minimum. These practices include orchard site selection and maintenance, tree selection and nutrition, soil management, and chemical control measures.��� 18 FEBRUARY 15, 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER ���An article on fireblight management by Tim Smith, Washington State University Extension specialist, who stated that, ���To date, researchers have shown that biological control agents provide partial reduction of blight infection, as high as 50-85 percent in field tests, and even higher in the laboratory. If applied two or three days ahead of an actual infection, this 50-85 percent control will be in place when the more effective control product, usually an antibiotic, is applied.��� That Surround (kaolin clay) has had some success in controlling fireblight. In his 2004 report of a trial investigating the effects of Surround on fireblight, Chuck Ingles, with the University of California Extension, stated that, ���Although the incidence of fireblight was not substantial, less blight was found in blocks that were treated with Surround. However, it is not possible to say conclusively whether or not Surround would reduce blight incidence in years with greater blight pressure.��� In its recommendation, the NOSB stated: ���Given the public health threat associated with antibiotic resistance, there is a history of board and public concern that organic production not contribute in a small or large way to antibiotic resistance. The (crops) committee originally passed a motion denying the petition, but based on comments that more time is needed to make a transition, proposed that the expiration date be postponed until October 21, 2014. The committee feels antibiotic resistance in human pathogens is an issue that should drive a process to speedy adoption of alternative management of fireblight.��� ���G. Warner SOURCE: Formal recommendation by National Organic Standards Board to the National Organic Program on the tetracycline petition, dated April 29, 2011, available at the Web site under National Organic Program, National Organic Standards Board, Recommendations.

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