USDA has is accepting comments on a proposed rule published today that addresses the use of three substances in organic agriculture: tetracycline, formic acid and attapulgite.

The proposals reflect the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board, which is an independent body of organic industry and stakeholder representatives that advises the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on aspects of USDA’s organic regulations. Recommendations address, in part, substances that can and cannot be used in organic farming and handling, captured on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. 

Tetracycline has been allowed in organic crop production since 2002 solely to control fire blight. It is a broad-spectrum antibiotic used to control bacteria, fungi and mycoplasma-like organisms. Tetracycline was set to be prohibited from organic production in October 2012.  However, after considering public comments, the National Organic Standards Board recommended that the substance continue to be allowed while options for biological controls are developed and fire blight-resistant apple/pear varieties and rootstocks are cultivated. The proposed rule would amend the current listing for tetracycline on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances to continue to help control fire blight in apple and pear production until Oct. 21, 2014. 

Formic acid was petitioned in May 2010 to be allowed as a pesticide to suppress varroa mites in honeybees. Since varroamites fatally attach to the abdomens of bees and extract fluids from their circulatory systems, infestations can quickly destroy a hive and spread easily to nearby hives. In its deliberations, the National Organic Standards Board considered other methods of varroa mite control and recommended that formic acid be allowed as a pesticide solely within honeybee hives.  

Finally, attapulgite was petitioned in May 2009 as a processing aid to purify vegetable and animal oils. Attapulgite is the product of naturally occurring attapulgus clay that is mined and subsequently dried and pulverized into a fine powder. It removes impurities to improve the appearance, flavor and stability of plant and animal oils. Considering that attapulgite may be preferable to bentonite, which is currently on the National List, the board recommended allowing attapulgite as a processing aid in handling plant and animal oils. 

The National Organic Program invites comments on these proposed amendments to the National List, a subpart of USDA's organic standards that identifies synthetic substances that may be used in organic production and nonsynthetic (natural) substances that may not. It also identifies synthetic, nonsynthetic and nonorganic agricultural substances that may be used in organic handling. 

Comments must be submitted by Jan. 9, 2012, to be considered during final rulemaking, which the National Organic Program will announce when published. Parties can view the docket and submit comments by clicking here (search for keyword or ID AMS_FRDOC_0001-0854).

The National Organic Program is responsible for ensuring the integrity of USDA organic agricultural products in the United States and throughout the world. More information about the program is available on line


Source: USDA