Officials crack down on fake organics

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is cracking down on businesses selling fake organic products. Most recently, a businessman with the largest organic fertilizer operation in the West pleaded guilty to fraud charges last week. Kenneth Noel Nelson, Jr., of Bakersfield, Calif., pleaded guilty to four counts of mail fraud for selling organic fertilizer that was not organic. He faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He will be sentenced in November.

Nelson is one of the largest fake organic businessmen USDA has caught. According to the Department of Justice, His company, Port Organic Products Ltd., sold approximately $40 million worth of the fertilizer from 2003 to 2009. He did not disclose to customers that the fertilizer contained aqueous ammonia and ammonium sulfate. He even obtained his organic certification with false applications.

Nelson’s actions put many organic farming operations in jeopardy of losing their organic certification.

USDA investigators appear to be stepping up their enforcement of organic rules. Long criticized for not enforcing the rules, USDA is now beginning an “age of enforcement,” according to USDA investigators. Organic groups appear pleased with the stronger enforcement.

“I think anything that will increase the integrity of organic fertilizer and organic agriculture is very important,” Steve Beckley, the president of the Organic Fertilizer Association of California told the Miami Herald.

Nelson isn’t the only high profile person to get caught. In April, an Oregon man was sentenced to 27 months in prison for “selling millions of pounds of corn falsely labeled as organic.” In another case, the owner of California Liquid Fertilizer pleaded guilty to fraud for using banned chemicals in its “Biolizer XN” fertilizer, which was sold as organic. Peter Townsley is awaiting sentencing after the two-year investigation as a result.


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nowhere  |  August, 13, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Cracking down? I'm cracking up...the USDA has done utterly nothing to halt the sales of fraudulent "organic" body care products, despite the urgings of the National Organic Standards Board and thousands of consumers. Your government inaction! Step up to the plate, USDA.

Harpal Singh Grewal    
India  |  August, 16, 2012 at 11:21 PM

It is indeed very encouraging for the organic (ethical)farmers & consumers of organic products. Cracking down of the fake organic encourages me as an organic farmer & an organic consumer. FDA should increase its vigil & strengthen the organic laws by introducing paper chromatography as an additional check to halt the influx of inorganic food into organic . There should be a vigilance to investigate the certifying agencies as well,nothing can be done without the knowledge of certifying agency. Also lookout for Indian Basmati etc.


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