America’s Fraudulent Organics Industry

January 24, 2019

We thought the problem was limited to fraudulent overseas suppliers; but fake organics are also grown in the US, and the USDA is clueless. Action Alert!

A Missouri farmer has been charged with ripping off food companies and consumers by falsely marketing more than $140 million worth of corn, soybeans, and wheat as organic. Observers have called the scale of this fraud “jaw dropping” and likely the largest case of its kind involving US farmers. The level of deception in the organic industry has reached epidemic proportions: a USDA study found that 40% of all organic food sold in the US tested positive for prohibited pesticides. This is an outrage, but the USDA shows no signs of deviating from business as usual.

The long-running scheme started as far back as 2004, when the Missouri man, Randy Constant, allegedly recruited three Nebraska farmers to supply him with crops. The Nebraska farmers turned a blind eye to Constant’s false marketing because of the premium prices their crops were fetching. The Nebraska farmers pleaded guilty last October.

This episode highlights what we’ve been saying for months now: the USDA, who is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the organic label, is absolutely inept. First, we had fake organics flooding in from overseas. We were told the problem was with foreign certifiers and that more oversight over the supply chain would reduce the fraud. But now it appears the problem is much deeper, and the USDA simply lacks the will to enforce the law. How else could such large-scale fraud occur on American soil over the course of a decade?

In fact, it wasn’t even the USDA that discovered the fraud; it was reportedly detected by a buyer after the grain he bought tested positive for GMOs.

We don’t know precisely where the oversight process broke down. The USDA does not perform inspections of organic producers; that is supposed to be taken care of by USDA-accredited, third-party organic certifiers. Farmers submit an organic system plan to a certifier, describing the methods used on the farm to produce organic crops. Certifiers review the plan and, if approved, are supposed to perform annual inspections which may include residue testing to ensure organic crops have not come into contact with prohibited substances. Judging from the fraud coming from overseas from certifiers like ETKO, it seems likely that these third-party organic certifiers are also in on the fraud.

What does the USDA’s organic seal mean anymore if the game can be rigged so easily? How many more farmers or businesses are similarly capitalizing on the premium for organic crops without adhering to organic standards? Does the USDA even care?

Take action below and tell the USDA to take steps to address organic fraud.

Action Alert! Write to the USDA and Congress, telling them that the level of organic fraud going on is an outrage, and major steps must be taken to address it. Please send your message immediately.

8 responses to “America’s Fraudulent Organics Industry”

  1. holisticpoet says:

    Joel Salatin did not want the FDA or any government involvement in the organic industry and I agree with him. There is no way it can be effectively policed. I do not buy organic food from the supermarket because in order to supply a chain store monocropping must be employed. There is no way to monocrop without using pesticides. I am a farmer using no pesticides or chemical fertilizer. I should know. I only buy from people I know and trust. I suppose buying organic from the supermarket is better that buying conventional from the supermarket, but if you have a choice KNOW YOUR FARMER.

    • Lisa K. says:

      I have family who farm without the use of pesticides in a regenerative manner. They were certified, but lost respect for the process. People in their area know them and trust that they will only be buying the cleanest food available at farmers market. His reputation depends on trust – not a government certificate. Yet when I must buy from the store, I will only buy organic. It is better than conventional. I herd share to get my milk from a family farmer because raw milk is illegal (like Heroin 🙂 ) otherwise. It has been 3 years and I have NEVER gotten sick from raw milk…it is a “living” substance when raw. No wonder the flora of the average gut has colonies of fewer organisms – we are killing ourselves from the inside and the outside. People do not understand we are a collection of living organisms, as is our planet…

      • Anh Phan says:

        Agree with you that the reputation depend on trust – not a government certificate. We should encourage people keep honest reputation. Certificate are costly and easily to be corrupted. As I growth my vegetable organic for myself, I acknowledge that the cost to practice real organic already expensive. Yes, we are innocently killing ourselves from inside and outside by follow safety guideline of FDA on Pasteurized milks, foods, and many approved synthetics drugs.

  2. I K says:

    Farmers markets will be more popular with those that care what they buy. That’s just frustrating for those who pay so much money to get quality food and yet they are fooled. Not surprising though as most companies are corupt and $$ is all that matter.

    • Beanzoboy says:

      They pay so much money for the exact same food regardless whether it’s actually “organic” or just says so on the package. It’s the exact same. Only a twit would pay more money for the same item because they don’t understand basic science.

  3. Undecider says:

    The USDA did the study? It’s the U.S. government who allows the infiltration of pesticides with their many times rewritten definition(s) of organic.

  4. Marty Freer says:

    When we were in Nevada, a woman who sold us her organic veggies told us of a neighbor who sprayed with pesticides late at night and who when out of the crop they were growing, went to the supermarket, sold the veggies as theirs. In San Diego, they found some of the farmers buying from the supermarket, when they were out of their crop. There is a lot of fraud everywhere including farmers markets. You really need to know the person and how he operates. . their level of honesty. I sold organic Moringa powder from India which I researched through the government agency who gave them their certification. When the shipment came through the port, it turned out to be contaminated with mice parts, insects parts, and filth. Organic certified from countries such as India don’t mean much. It is better at least if the company selling the product in the US, tests the bulk themselves. I stopped selling Moringa products after later finding a safe product because of the competition from dirt cheap, raw, uncleaned product that people purchased on price only. Testing for E-coli bacteria, filth, mice parts cost money and increases the cost of the product. People do not understand that often. Cheapest is not always the most healthiest. You need to really do research on any company you buy from. Organic depends on the honesty and integrity of the farmer who sells the produce or product whether it is a farmer is this country or from a foreign country. Money corrupts and there is money in labeling your product organic. That is hard to tell just walking through buying produce.

  5. Roger Morton says:

    The whole concept of organic is a fraud. What we need is sustainable agriculture. Not this farce.

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