Organic Trade Association Establishes Task Force to Combat Organic Label Fraud

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Following the Washington Post report that millions of pounds of imported soybeans and corn were fraudulently labeled as USDA organic, the Organic Trade Association is organizing a task force to develop methods to ensure that imported organic products live up to USDA organic standards.

The efforts will include establishing a list of best practices, lobbying to give the USDA broader enforcement powers with regard to this label in the next farm bill, and pushing Congress for new technology to better trace organic products.

“There is a strong desire on the part of industry to stop the incidence of fraud in organic,” Laura Batcha, director of the Organic Trade Association, told the Post. “The consumer expects that organic products are verified back to the farm. The industry takes that contract with the consumer very seriously.”

The efforts of this task force aim to protect American organic farmers who have been earning less on their organically produced cereals over the past two years given these inexpensive and high-volume imports.

Some U.S. farmers, however, remain skeptical, the Post reports.

John Bobbe, executive director of the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing, which has been investigating fraudulent grain imports for months, said that he was “amused” by the industry effort.

“It remains to be seen whether this effort is serious or not,” Bobbe said “The OTA has been strangely quiet about this issue. It seems they have been looking the other way – the ‘see no evil’ scenario. But I guess they can’t ignore it now. I think the fire is burning enough that the flames can’t be stamped out.”

California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) issued a notice following the original Post report saying that it “lacks confidence in the organic status of foreign grain.”

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Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco