Organic standards for animal welfare and additives?

by Trudy Bialic, Director of Public Affairs

This article was originally published in June 2011

seattle & apple

A string of staff and board trustees testifying before the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) represented PCC Natural Markets’ bench strength, passion and knowledge at the first NOSB meeting ever in Seattle.

Five staff and two trustees spoke for three minutes each in April before the 15 NOSB members, U.S. Department of Agriculture staff, and about 150 other organic stakeholders. PCC representatives put our consumer-owned and consumer-operated business on the public record, calling for higher animal welfare standards than an NOSB committee had recommended. We expect improvements to meet organic consumers’ expectations and we believe we can get them!

We also asked for a species-specific approach to certifying farmed fish. We said organic consumers don’t want any synthetics in organics — that any synthetic additives should be the rarest exceptions, not business as usual. We said consumers absolutely expect the NOSB to review each and every synthetic from a precautionary approach.

We urged the board to remember that its authority to review and reject synthetic additives was hard-won and should not ever be surrendered, as one proposal now withdrawn would have done for anything deemed a “nutrient.”

A PCC highlight: two articulate teenage PCC shoppers who raise chickens took the stand and shared their knowledge of what makes chickens happy and healthy. They earned loud applause for what some called the best testimony of the week.

In the end, decisions on many minor materials used in organic production were made — ethylene gas still may be used to induce pineapple flowering, but sodium nitrate (a mined nitrogen that boosts leafy green growth) is sharply restricted. Action on animal welfare, aquaculture and synthetic additives is postponed until the November meeting in Savannah.

Meanwhile, we’re developing an organic consumer survey that we’ll tell you about in a coming issue. NOSB members asked a few questions that are best answered with real data. We plan to gather your opinions to present at the NOSB’s fall meeting.

Also in this issue

Foraging in our own backyard

Students from the Edible Campus Project at the University of Washington are identifying and mapping edible plants on the UW campus. They’ve divided the campus into quadrants and plan to have a foraging guide available to the public.

Exploring the aisles: Extra-virgin olive oil

Olive oils, like wine or coffee, have complex tastes and textures that reflect the type of olives, where they’re grown, and the care with which they’re pressed. Here are some you’ll find in our stores, along with tips, terms and information.

A humble tuber

On a March evening, in a warm and cozy bungalow In Wallingford, we sat around tables showcasing the remnants of a spring meal well and thoroughly enjoyed. Of particular note was the first dish: a spectacular creamy sunchoke soup, carefully poured from small pitchers into beautiful bowls waiting in front of us.