Organic fertilizer fraud: US courts get tough

GallonDaily and our sister publication GallonLetter get lots of questions about organic food and how do we know that it is really organic when it looks just the same as conventionally produced food. Of course organics is only one of many areas where consumers have to rely on producer honesty and government enforcement to ensure that what they are sold is the same as what is delivered. Two recent cases show that at least the US government is prepared to get tough, really tough, on mislabeling of organic food ingredients.

One fertilizer retailer, a Canadian fellow operating in California, was sentenced to 364 days in prison, fined of $125,000 and ordered to serve six months of community confinement with 1,000 hours of community service related to organic production, for selling fertilizer that he claimed was approved for use in organic agriculture when in fact it contained an ingredient prohibited from organic agriculture. Only ingredients on approved lists are allowed by US Department of Agriculture to be used in organic farming.

Another retailer was sentenced to  6 ½ years in prison, three years of supervised release, forfeiture to the United States of his 2006 Chevrolet Silverado, 2005 Mini Cooper, and 2004 Porsche Cayenne, and ordered to pay a personal money judgment of $9 million for essentially similar offences. Additionally, the retailer will owe restitution to victims in an amount that remains to be determined by the court.

These are not trivial penalties. US courts appear to be throwing the book at people who exploit the challenges of ensuring that organic food is in fact produced through organic farm practices. GallonDaily approves.

The two cases are reported at http://www.fbi.gov/sanfrancisco/press-releases/2012/former-president-of-organic-fertilizer-company-sentenced-to-federal-prison-for-selling-synthetic-fertilizer-to-organic-farm

and

http://www.justice.gov/usao/cae/news/docs/2012/11-2012/11-19-12Nelson.html

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