The Organic Foods Production Act created the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) as a tool for managing the substances used in organic production over time.
In general, natural substances are allowed in organics and synthetic substances are prohibited. The National List identifies the limited exceptions to these general rules. The National List also identifies nonagricultural and nonorganic agricultural substances (ingredients) that may be used in organic handling.
Changes to the National List require a National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommendation and USDA rulemaking, a process that provides multiple opportunities for public comment.
In June, the USDA published a final rule in the Federal Register amending the National List based on public input and the April 2019 NOSB recommendations. This final rule provides additional options for organic farms and businesses, by adding three substances to the list of substances allowed for organic production and handling.
The final rule allows:
- Oxalic acid as a pesticide for use in apiculture.
- Nonorganic pullulan for use in dietary supplements with “made with organic” claims (capsules and tablets).
- Collagen gel is a casing for organic products like sausages.
This final rule is effective July 26, 2021.
The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances identifies the synthetic substances that may be used and the nonsynthetic (natural) substances that may not be used in organic crop and livestock production. It also identifies a limited number of non-organic substances that may be used in or on processed organic products.
In general, synthetic substances are prohibited for crop and livestock production unless specifically allowed and non-synthetic substances are allowed for crop and livestock production unless specifically prohibited.
Some substances on the National List may only be used in specific situations, e.g. only for certain crops or up to a maximum amount.
Changes to the National List are initiated through a petition to add or remove a substance or through the sunset review process. Anyone can submit a petition to amend the National List. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a Federal Advisory Committee, reviews petitions and makes formal recommendations to USDA. The NOSB also reviews every substance on the National List every five years during the “sunset review” to confirm that the substance continues to meet the required criteria.
- List of Petitioned Substances: Access an alphabetical list of National List substances and substances that have been petitioned; some of these are also on the National List, but many are not. Substances may not be used in organic production or handling unless the substance has been added to the National List through a final rule.
- Learn more about Sunset Review
- National List Sunset Dates (pdf)
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