The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), an expert advisory panel to the USDA’s National Organic Program, made it clear that organic agriculture should not allow the use of cloned animals or their offspring in the production of organic food. The NOSB voted at their spring meeting in Washington, DC to exclude cloned animals, their offspring, and any food products from cloned animals from the organic sector.
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last December that they were ready to approve the commercialization of cloning in livestock agriculture and indicated that they would not seek any identifying labels on cloned meat, dairy and other food products sold in the nation’s grocery stores.
During its three-day meeting, NOSB members wrestled with language aimed at keeping cloning out of organics. Kevin Engelbert, vice-chair of the NOSB’s Livestock Committee and an organic dairy farmer from the state of New York, pressed hard for immediate and decisive action on the controversial technology. During the Board’s deliberations, Engelbert said “This is the time to make a strong statement.” He offered precise language that was adopted by the NOSB to address cloning and the issue of offspring from cloned animals.
The Board’s recommendation provides guidance to the National Organic Program’s administrator who stated more than once during the meeting that the NOP wanted advice from the Board on how to address cloned offspring and their food products in the organic sector.
The 12-0 vote (with one abstention) occurred after the NOSB heard public comments over three days from numerous representatives of farm, consumer, retail and non-profit groups calling for the cloning ban in organics.
Representatives from the Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, and the Organic Consumers Association were among those testifying in favor of a cloning ban in organics.
The action by the NOSB will likely add further support to a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) that would outlaw the use of cloned animals and their offspring in organic food production. The bill, S536, is currently in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.