Monday, May 15, 2017

Massive organic fraud alleged

The United States organic industry is calling for action to end what it calls massive fraud involving imports of “organic” corn and soybeans from Eastern Europe and

It says the cheap imports are driving U.S. growers out of business and says the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been negligent in failing to enforce regulations.

It has written to the new Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue recommending that he fire the National Organic Program managers.

The organic industry’s watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, says it has been filing complaints about organic fraud for more than a decade without making much progress.

It says the U.S. officials even recognize some organic-certifying bodies that have been banned in Europe and that it renewed a licence for Jirah Mills after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigated the Quebec company in 2011, resulting in Jireh Mills surrendering its organic certification.

Cornucopia’s letter to Perdue follows the release of a new investigation by The Washington Post documenting massive shipments of fraudulent organic grains entering the U.S. from China and Eastern Europe.

"This is the second organic major-league scandal uncovered this month by The Washington Post, and it confirms a longstanding pattern of negligence and corruption documented by our researchers," said Will Fantle, Cornucopia's co-director.

Cornucopia says that ‘all too often the complaints” it has been filing for more than a decade “have been dismissed without investigation, or, when found meritorious, penalties have been negotiated down to a ‘light slap on the wrist’ for offenders, with the details of the deals cloaked in secrecy.”
Fantle said “consumers are being cheated and ethical farmers are being robbed of income while the U.S.D.A. fails to vigorously defend—as they were charged to do by Congress—organic integrity."

Mark A. Kastel, Cornucopia’s senior farm policy analyst, says “organic stakeholders need the Trump/Purdue administration to step up and exert authority over the NOP, which has been unduly influenced by the leading industry lobby group, the Organic Trade Association.”