The importance of organic trust - The Packer

The importance of organic trust

03/02/2012 08:46:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

About 8 years after regulators first heard allegations that a California organic fertilizer manufacturer was skirting federal laws, justice is being served.
It’s about time.
Peter Townsley, whose California Liquid Fertilizer sold products with synthetic ingredients for at least six years to organic growers, faces hefty fines and a possible prison term.
Some may argue that’s a harsh penalty, but consider the potential consequences of his actions.
Although estimates of the value of fresh organic fruits and vegetables vary depending on the source, experts agree that the multibillion dollar market continues to expand.
That market, however, is only as strong as consumers’ faith in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. 
Townsley single-handedly gave consumers a reason to question the integrity of all organic fruits and vegetables on store shelves. How would shoppers know which item was treated with Townsley’s illegal fertilizer?
Unfortunately, the USDA and California Department of Food and Agriculture — which serves as the state’s organic regulator — shoulder some of the blame in the case. 
For too long, inspectors failed to act on credible information that California Liquid Fertilizer was breaking the law, allowing growers to promote higher-priced fruits and vegetables as organic. That company wasn’t the only one lining its pockets by using cheaper materials.
The case has triggered stricter protocols on fertilizer testing, and it should be a wake-up call to inspectors — and growers, who can’t afford to lose consumers’ trust.
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