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Report: USA degenerates to a dumping ground for faked organic feeds

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Large quantities of conventional feed were sold in the USA as organic. Symbol picture © Shutterstock/maerzkind

In short:

  • In May 2017, it was revealed that on a large scale, conventional corn and soybeans from Eastern Europe were imported via Turkey to the USA and sold there as organic goods.
  • A report by the Cornucopia Institute shows that so far, little has been done against it. The institute suspects that fraudulent goods continue to enter the USA, particularly through the Turkish agricultural group Tiryaki.
  • The Institute recommends to tighten organic regulations in the USA immediately and criticizes the inaction of the US Department of Agriculture.

Large quantities of organic feed of questionable organic quality continue to be supplied to the USA from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. This is the result of a report published by the Cornucopia Institute, which is closely related to the US organic movement. It also deplores the continued inadequate controls and reforms of the US Department of Agriculture USDA. The authorities have ignored information about fraudulent goods from China and Eastern Europe for over ten years, criticized Cornucopia Managing Director Mark A. Kastel.

In May 2017, the Washington Post published a detailed research report according to which three shipments of organic corn and soybeans entering the USA via Turkey consisted of conventional goods that had been re-declared along the way. Since then, the gaps in the controls and their lax handling have been discussed by the USDA, but little has changed so far. The Cornucopia Institute complained that the ministry does not intend to make initial suggestions for improvement until spring 2019. However, immediate measures are needed to ensure the integrity of organic imports. The institute underlined this demand with a report showing the development of organic feed imports into the USA since 2015 and makes clear that almost nothing has changed since the revelations of the Washington Post.

These are the most important findings:

Feeble controls in the USA attract fraudulent goods

As a consequence of an organic feed scandal, the EU issued strict regulations for the control of organic imports from Eastern Europe and the Middle East in 2015. According to Cornucopia, this led dubious producers from these countries to seek new customers. “ Less stringent requirements and their lax implementation made the US the preferred target for alleged organic cereals,” the report says. In addition, the Turkish inspection body ETKO, which was involved in the feed scandal, lost its EU approval but was still allowed to certify products according to the US organic standard NOP. So, US imports of organic soya from Turkey rose from 14,000 to 165,000 tons between 2014 and 2016, while corn imports rose from 15,000 to 399,000 tons. As early as 2016, USDA staff pointed out that the integrity of these imports was not always guaranteed. Based on Turkish production data, the report emphasized that these quantities cannot have their origin in Turkish cultivation. From other countries, these goods were imported into Turkey and there loaded for their way to the US. Usually, according to Cornucopia, free trade zones are used for this purpose in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, so that the local customs have no means of control.

A Turkish agribusiness group behaves conspicuously

According to the report, the revelations of the Washington Post had one main effect. The Turkish company mentioned therein disappeared from the market and another competitor increased its market share. This is the Turkish agricultural group Tiryaki, which grows, processes and trades grains and other products, conventionally as well as organic, and thus has a turnover of over one billion US dollars (870 million euros). According to the figures presented, Tiryaki Group imported 60 percent of all organic corn and 60 percent of soybeans to the USA between January 2017 and May 2018. In 2018 alone, the shares were even higher.

Tiryaki also includes numerous producers in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. According to Cornucopia, it is striking that some of them had returned their US organic approval in spring 2018. Tiryaki itself and the organic subsidiary Diasub also dropped out of the control system. As Cornucopia reports, this happened because a shipment of organic corn was targeted by the authorities in April 2018. Although organic integrity was not the reason for these investigations, the institute suspects that the companies obviously wanted to preempt investigations of control bodies. Cornucopia writes that Tiryaki and Diasub have now signed up with a new international inspection body, the Dutch Control Union. It doesn't have a good reputation among industry experts in Germany. Tiryaki is also well known: In 2011, high glyphosate residues were found in organic lentils that the company had imported to Germany. At that time, investigations revealed that conventional and organic lentils had been mixed during processing. An intention could not be proven, sloppiness was assumed as a cause.

Organic regulations in the USA need to be tightened urgently

In its report, Cornucopia recommends that US organic regulations should be tightened up immediately. It is necessary to certify all companies within a product chain. Until now, non-certified companies can also ship organic goods as intermediaries. Certification bodies would have to report on the yields and total harvests of the controlled producers and ensure traceability. Standardised transaction certificates are as necessary as tests of every transported organic product for pesticides and genetic impurities.


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