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Reprint from Organic Consumers Association
The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (NOP) announced on August 5th 2008 that 15 of the 30 accredited organic certifiers they recently inspected failed the USDA audit and will have 12 months to make corrections or lose their accreditation with the NOP. It is clear that there are numerous violations of organic standards taking place in the U.S. and across the world. (Read the August 5 NOP Audit Report here)
A number of the violations noted in the several hundred page audit related to Chinese imports certified by the French-based organic certifier Ecocert and other certifiers. Strangely enough, Quality Assurance International (QAI), the largest organic certifier in the world, is not cited by the USDA, even though the OCA has recently reviewed documents that indicate that QAI is indeed under investigation by the NOP.
QAI has recently been in the news for sourcing ginger, contaminated with a dangerous and banned pesticide, Aldicarb, from its Chinese certification sub-contractors and then labeling it as "USDA Organic." QAI is also under public fire, along with other certifiers, for certifying factory farm feedlot dairies supplying milk to Horizon and Aurora Organic Dairy, who in turn supply Wal-Mart, Costco, Safeway, and other organic private label organic milk. (Learn more)
For six years the OCA and the organic community have called upon the USDA to implement a "Peer Review Panel" system, as required by law in the National Organic Standards, so that respected members of the organic community can monitor and police violations of organic standards on the part of producers, importers, and certifiers.
As the USDA themselves have admitted "The National Organic Standards call for the Administrator of AMS (USDA Agricultural Marketing Service) to appoint members of a Peer Review Panel to evaluate the NOP¹s adherence to its accreditation procedures and its accreditation decisions." It's time for the USDA to stop dragging their heels and begin the public process to set up an organic community "Peer Review Panel," so can we can start policing organic standards ourselves.
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