Yes, it’s true that these agencies require their inspectors to look at some of a farmer’s fields and/or areas of a processing facility. This is referred to euphemistically as bioassaying. But beyond that, the focus is on reviewing the records of the person seeking certification.
No wonder the lion’s share of de-certifications (which are rare) occur as a result of missing paperwork and not for any suspicion that the rules themselves were violated.
Looking out for who?
In case none of this sets off alarm bells for you, consider that all organic certification agencies stay in business thanks to the revenue they collect from the farms and facilities they certify.
In case you’re still not worried, they also collect revenue based on the volume of organic product each farmer and processor under their watch sells.
This is referred to in the industry as a royalty structure, another euphemism which warrants a separate column all on its own.
In all other industries, the term “certified” guarantees consumers that a product was tested, and, especially in the case of food safety, that a surprise field visit was paid to the party seeking certification.
Not so in the organic sector.
Whether it’s toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizer or fecal coliforms, not a single test is carried out in the field to ensure the integrity of organic food.
Rather than engender honesty or improvements to the quality of organic food, the door is thereby left wide open to fraud and gross negligence here at home and abroad.
In countless marketing campaigns — many of which are subsidized with public funds — organic food is claimed to be purer, more nutritious, safer and better for the environment.
All such claims could easily be verified scientifically through laboratory analysis, but they are not.
The only potentially positive aspect of the organic certification systems of the world is the fact that a person who claims to be organic but who’s caught disobeying the rules is automatically considered to be in violation of federal law.
But without any means to catch such a person, what difference does this make? It’s like passing a law that says it’s against the law to break the law.
Where, pray tell, is the verification?
Mischa Popoff is a freelance political writer with a bachelor’s degree in history. He’s qualified by the International Organic Inspectors Association to collect field samples for testing and has been paid by concerned domestic organic farmers to get their crops tested.
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