USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Organic Production List

Magnesium carbonate under a microscope. Photo by Engineering at Cambridge.

After a few months of speculation, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling.

Here’s the list of what will be removed from the national list, which includes three synthetic substances and five nonorganic agricultural substances:

  • Lignin sulfonate (as a floating agent in postharvest handling)
  • Furosemide
  • Magnesium carbonate
  • Chia*
  • Dillweed oil*
  • Frozen galangal*
  • Frozen lemongrass*
  • Chipotle chile peppers*

* Organic forms of chia, dillweed oil, galangal, lemongrass, and Chipotle chile peppers continue to be allowed in organic products and are not affected by this ruling.

Based on public comments to the Sunset 2017 Proposed Rule, USDA is renewing the listing for three substances on the National List: inulin-oligofructose enriched, Turkish bay leaves, and whey protein concentrate. These three substances have been renewed for use in organic handling and will be reviewed again as part of the 2022 Sunset review.

You can read the full text of USDA’s the Sunset 2017 Final Rule on its website.

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3 comments on “USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Organic Production List

  1. The fundamental challenge in the ruling is less the specifics of the ruling itself but the description of the reasoning. The elimination of Magnesium Carbonate by virtue of its “not being needed” is an example of the potential for additional rulings that are not exclusively based on science. The material was allowed for incorporation in crop production with limits and its acceptability until the sunset period lapsed as deemed acceptable. This was an acknowledgement of the application of science in the realm of crop production and acquiescence to the compound being fundamentally “organic” by any chemical definition. The elimination of it owing to public comment being insufficiently supportive of the continuing use of the compound is additionally troubling.
    The elimination of the specific compound as an exemplar in not at issue but the precedent established remains one that deserves closer review. Yes, the compound is typically “manufactured” rather than grown and thus is a target. Elimination, however, does set the stage for elimination of other entities that are “manufactured” and used in production of goods that desire the appellation of “made with organic”. The delivery of this essential mineral in a form that is digestible to both plans and livestock is a cautionary tale. Without posing the extreme argument, consider other compounds and, indeed, techniques that could come under similar evaluation. The ad absurdum end would be the elimination of all mechanical equipment that is self-propelled or manufactured from compounds that are not similarly organic. This extreme view is specifically that, HOWEVER the argument may be made that crops grown under artificial light with all other aspects of the production in line with the standards — is that not a consideration? The consistent recognition and application of science is what must be considered in all such evaluations. While this specific example is less likely to result in production challenges than some others — application of the holier than thou standard can be extreme as was noted in the original implementation of the NOP. This specific instance appears understandable but tossing babies out with bathwater when that baby is science – is not a long-term solution to offering meaningful benefit to consumers interested in healthier presentations and choices.

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