Fake Organics: Will Congress Step In?

A new bill has important provisions that will help stop fake organics from flooding US markets. Action Alert!
A  bill has been introduced by Rep. John Faso (R-NY) to address some of the program’s shortcomings in ensuring the integrity of imported organics. This follows an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit report that found significant flaws with the USDA’s organics program.
Shockingly, but not surprisingly, the OIG report found that imported “organics” are being fumigated at US ports of entry, and then sold as organic on store shelves. This problem is on top of the problem we have earlier cited of fake organic products flooding in after certification by fraudulent certifiers. The USDA says it is looking into the latter problem. We will have to see if they are serious about doing so.
To address this and other concerns, HR 3871:

  • Includes more funding for the National Organics Program (NOP), increasing the budget almost threefold by 2018 to improve enforcement and compliance efforts.
  • Requires the USDA to write rules so that currently uncertified entities, such as brokers, ports, and online auctions, become organic-certified or lose their organic labeling.
  • Authorizes one-time funding of $5 million on top of NOP’s annual budget to modernize NOP’s international trade and transaction certificates, such as through an electronic system to ensure full traceability.
  • Gives NOP oversight and approval authority over any certifying agent operating outside the US, and requires an annual authorization for each certifying agent that intends to operate in any foreign country.
  • Allows NOP to require increased documentation or verification before granting certification, in the case of a known or suspected concern.
  • Requires NOP to submit an annual report to Congress describing the agency’s domestic and overseas investigations and compliance actions.

HR 3871 won’t fix all the problems with the government’s organics program, which we’ve argued has been co-opted by Big Food. More funding will never substitute for a will to enforce the law, and more funding will make it much harder to get the bill passed.  But this is a step in the right direction in getting the NOP to do its job and ensure the integrity of our domestic organics program.
For this bill or an amended version to gain momentum, lawmakers will have to hear from their constituents that it’s a matter of concern.
Action Alert! Tell your representative to support HR 3871. Please send your message immediately.


  1. Useless: NOP has become a tool of hydroponic growers (think: root in water with what ever nutrients the grower might cost-justify to put into such water. When governments, which are only too easily owned by moneyed interests, get involved with certification, such certification is for sale to the highest bidder, along with “Senators’ robes with Senators inside.” (TY, Robert Heinlein) It’s left to consumers to trace the provenance of food.

    1. I totally agree. I was skeptic about this when it started in the mid to late 90’s since, in Chicago, we got produce that said “based on California organic standards” (or Oregon) and it seemed a better idea. Now we see the foolishness of trying to get national standards from the gov’t. In the meantime, California standards have been totally corrupted.
      Best plan, replace it with standards from a not-for-profit organization. Much like the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”
      Organic Consumers Association has just provided info that one can buy labels for organic produce without having to prove certification. Anyone can order these labels from Amazon.

  2. I considered getting my ranch certified as organic. It seemed to be pretty much self reporting. Lots of paper work for several years. A few lies would help. Couldn’t do it. I dropped it after two years. The cattle are just for our family and close friends so no need to be “certified”. Since then it’s been obvious to me that there is a lot of cheating but I figure almost organic is better than conventional.

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