Aug 2, 2012
NOP announces new organic rules

USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) published a final rule Aug. 2 that addresses the use of three substances in organic agriculture, with specific limitations that would support production and processing of organic products.

Effective Aug. 3, the allowance for the use of tetracycline in organic apple and pear production will be extended until Oct. 21, 2014, providing two years for the development of alternatives for fire blight control. Additionally, producers will have the option of using formic acid as a means of controlling varroa and tracheal mites in organic honeybee operations, while processors will have the option of using attapulgite, a nonsynthetic processing aid, for purification of plant and animal oils, according to NOP.

Tetracycline has been allowed in organic crop production since 2002, solely to control fire blight – a bacterial disease affecting large populations of apples and pears. Given the high susceptibility of the crops to the disease, and in light of tetracycline’s proven effectiveness to treat it, the National Organic Standards Board recommended that the substance continue to be allowed for a period. However, the expiration date should encourage the development of options for biological controls and help cultivate fire blight-resistant apple and pear varieties.

Formic acid was petitioned to be allowed as a pesticide to suppress varroa mites in honeybees. Varroa mite infestations can quickly destroy a hive and spread easily to nearby hives. The final rule published Aug. 2 allows the use of formic acid in organic livestock production to control these mites within honeybee hives, according to NOP.

For more information, call Melissa Bailey, Director, Standards Division, at 202-720-3252, or fax 202-205-7808. The rule is available here.

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