The US Organic Trade Association said in July that it is setting up a Global Organic Supply Chain Integrity Task Force with a mandate to develop a "best practices guide" to use in managing and verifying global organic supply chain integrity to help brands and traders manage and mitigate the risk and occurrence of organic fraud.
And organic industry watchdog The Cornucopia Institute reported that there was a massive fraud in shipments of “organic grain" from China and Eastern Europe in May 2017 and has accused the USDA of not doing all it can to protect organic domestic farmers from impostor organic imports.
The OTA said that the best practices guide will include a vulnerability assessment, mitigation measures and an alert and reporting system. OTA member companies serving on the task force must be actively participating in organic trade as a supplier or buyer and/or have strong knowledge and experience of supply chain management and/or strong knowledge and experience with record keeping and verification systems for organic certification.
"A vulnerability was revealed in the organic supply chain via a complaint that the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) received regarding non-organic grains and oilseeds being imported from Turkey and fraudulently sold as organic in the United States," the OTA said.
"In the course of investigating these complaints, NOP identified violations of the USDA organic regulations involving soybean shipments managed by Beyaz Agro, a certified organic grain and oilseed handling operation, and two related entities: Hakan Organics based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Agropex, based in Broadway, Virginia.
"This investigation related to a shipment of 16,250 metric tons of soybeans, which arrived in the US aboard the M/V 'Four Diamond' on November 12, 2016. The soybeans had been previously exported from Ukraine to Turkey and were then re-exported from Turkey to the United States. However, before leaving Ukraine, the soybeans had been fumigated with aluminum phosphide, a prohibited substance under the USDA organic regulations. Upon arrival in the US, the fumigated soybeans were sold as USDA organic. This action violated the Organic Foods Production Act and the USDA organic regulations."
A report on EU Customs Enforcement of intellectual property rights in July found that EU customs seized over 41 million fake goods at EU external borders in 2016 valued at EUR 670 million, with foodstuffs the third largest category for products detained.
The report came as Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, warned that the misuse and counterfeiting of geographical indication (GI) products and organic labels continue to be a major issue for EU food producers.
The EU Customs report showed that customs authorities detained everyday products which are potentially dangerous to health and safety – such as food and drink, medicines, toys, and household electrical goods that accounted for over a third intercepted goods.
Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: "A high level of protection of intellectual property is crucial to support growth and create jobs. Fake goods pose a real threat to health and safety of EU consumers and undermine legal businesses and state revenues. Studies show that the EU is particularly exposed to imports of counterfeit products."
Cigarettes were the top category (24%) for articles detained and toys the second largest group (17%), followed by foodstuffs (13%) and packaging material (12%). The number of intercepted articles rose by 2 percent compared to 2015. There was a 50 percent-plus increase in alcoholic beverages and foodstuffs detained.
The Cornucopia Institute said that the enormous shipments into the US of so-called "organic grain" are priced far below what domestic organic farmers must charge to survive, while the USDA’s Office of Inspector General will release an audit of the NOP’s “International Trade Arrangements and Agreements” later this summer.
"Non-organic corn and soy, labeled as organic, are flooding US ports, undercutting legitimate U.S. organic farmers, due to the USDA’s negligence. Cornucopia Institute reinforced their call for USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to correct the chronic pattern of gross corruption at the National Organic Program by replacing the incompetent management," Cornucopia Institute said.
The NOP oversees approximately 150 independent agencies worldwide that do inspections of organic farms and facilities. “Its accreditation program is fundamental in ameliorating the inherent conflict of interest in businesses hiring their own certifiers,” stated Anne Ross, an attorney with Cornucopia with a background in food and agricultural law.