NEWS: USDA organic regulations on inert ingredients

News from AAFC’s Market Access Secretariat

On September 2, 2022, the USDA Agricultural Market Service (AMS) released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, seeking input on how to update the USDA organic regulations on inert ingredients in pesticides used in organic production and comments on alternatives to its existing regulations that would align with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory framework for inert ingredients.

Inert ingredients are substances other than the “active” ( i.e., pesticidal) ingredients included in formulated pesticide products. Inert ingredients added to pesticides may function, for example, as adjuvants, solvents, diluents, stabilizers, or preservatives. Pesticide labels do not typically disclose the identity (common or chemical name) of the inert ingredients in the product.

For organic crop and livestock production, current USDA organic regulations allow EPA List 3 and List 4 inert ingredients to be used in pesticide products when the product includes active ingredients permitted by the organic regulations. Together, EPA List 3 and List 4 include more than 2,700 inert ingredients. AMS does not know how many of these inert ingredients are included in products used in organic production, but it is likely a relatively small subset of these 2,700 ingredients. These lists were last updated by the EPA in 2004 and will not be updated again.

In the advance notice, AMS describes 5 potential options for updating the references to inert ingredients in the USDA regulation on organic production:

A. Allow Inert Ingredients Permitted by EPA in Minimum Risk Pesticides
B. Allow Specific Inert Ingredients Permitted by EPA
C. Replace EPA List 3 With EPA-Allowed Inert Ingredients of Semiochemical Dispensers
D. List Inert Ingredients Individually on the National List
E. Take No Action (Status Quo)

AMS seeks comments that will assist the agency in assessing the feasibility of alternatives that could replace the references to these outdated EPA lists.

Comments on the advance notice can be submitted on or before December 31, 2022.