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OCA Addresses Organic Standards Issues at Spring NOSB Meeting

OCA Delivers 17,000 Signatures Opposing Synthetic Growth Promoter in Poultry Feed

April 28, 2015
Organic Consumers Association: Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090,; Patrick Kerrigan, 218-220-9622; Alexis Baden-Mayer, 202-744-0853

La Jolla, Calif.—The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today delivered 17,000 signatures to members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) urging the Board to phase out the use of synthetic methionine in poultry feed. The signatures were delivered along with testimony on the issue.

The feed additive, which acts as a growth promoter, is only given to poultry and it is the only synthetic feed additive approved for organic livestock. 

“If the NOSB ignores consumers and votes to increase the use of synthetic methionine, this is action that will be very difficult to undo,” said OCA’s Patrick Kerrigan, who delivered the signatures and testimony. “That’s because the National Organic Program recently changed the way the NOSB votes on synthetic materials allowed in organic during the ‘sunset’ process. It used to take a two-thirds vote of the board to renew a synthetic material after 5 years. Now, the material is automatically renewed unless two-thirds of the 15-members NOSB votes to remove it,” said Kerrigan.

OCA has joined a lawsuit to challenge this change, as it violates the Organic Foods Production Act.

OCA believes that the use of synthetic methionine allows organic poultry companies to skirt organic rules that require “living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals, including … [y]ear-round access for all animals to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight” and prohibit “[co]ntinuous total confinement of any animal indoors.”

The vast majority of organic poultry are continuously confined indoors, packed by the tens of thousands into enormous warehouses. The only “outdoor access” is a porch or concrete pen that most birds are never able to reach. Their feed consists of a diet of corn and soy just like their conventional counterparts, except that the grain is organic. Without access to the outdoors, they lack the sources of natural methionine they would find if allowed to exhibit their natural behaviors, foraging for greens and pecking and scratching in the dirt for insects, earthworms and other animal life. Instead, they receive synthetic methionine which stimulates weight gain in broiler (meat) chickens and increased egg production in laying hens, even in these unnatural conditions.

OCA calls on consumers to support poultry producers that raise birds on pasture and to boycott factory farmed organic eggs. 

OCA urges the National Organic Program to investigate the complaints of the Cornucopia Institute that provide aerial photographic evidence that many of the largest organic poultry producers are continuously confining their birds indoors.

Another issue being discussed at the NOSB’s spring meeting is organic farmers’ reliance on conventional factory farm waste as a source of fertilizer. OCA opposes the use of factory farm waste in organics, while recognizing the need to provide alternatives. Since all health is derived from our soils, the concept of "organic" cannot co-exist with the make-up of factory farm wastes. Using factory farm wastes in organic food production is a serious breach of trust for organic consumers.

OCA recognizes that the source of this problem is the proliferation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), which put many mid-size farms that raised their animals on pasture out of business. Consumers can help reverse this trend by boycotting CAFO animal products and supporting organic producers that raise their animals on pasture.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.