Friday, March 26, 2010


Organic foods constitute big business in many countries because of the threat perception that to day's agriculture depends too much on use of unsafe chemicals for increased productivity and quality preservation. Though not even 4% of world food production is accounted for by this sector its growth has been phenomenal till recently. In the US alone a staggering $ 26 billion worth of organic foods were consumed last year. Consumer has been placing lot of confidence on the ability of the government to oversee the activities of the organic food industry but a recent report suggests that fraudsters and bogus dealers are thriving in this market selling products that do not conform to the standards for organic foods.

"Spot testing is required by a 1990 law that established the basis for national organic standards, but in a report released on Thursday by the office of Phyllis K. Fong, the inspector general of agriculture, investigators wrote that regulators never made sure the testing was being carried out. The report pointed to numerous shortcomings at the agriculture department's National Organic Program, which regulates the industry, including poor oversight of some organic operations overseas and a lack of urgency in cracking down on marketers of bogus organic products".

It is not clear why spot testing, supposed to be fast is not compulsorily being done and why severe action is not taken on those violating the quality standards. New standards and testing procedures are now being put in place to test the products claiming to be organic which is expected to be taken up through licensed private analytical agencies with proper facilities later this year. The task is stupendous as there are already 28000 organizations involved in organic foods production and monitoring their performance and exercising control over the certifiers themselves is a logistical nightmare. Adequate infrastructure, sufficient personnel and whopping financial resources need to be mobilized. How far a lesser gifted country, compared to the US can ever hope for overcoming these constraints remains to be seen.


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