After years of ringing the alarm bell about fraudulent Chinese organic production, the nation's preeminent organic farming watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, applauded the federal government's current approach to enforcement and its transparency. On Feb. 11, The Department of Agriculture (USDA) publicly released evidence of attempted fraud by a Chinese organic agricultural marketer.

The full news release can be viewed at: http://www.cornucopia.org/2011/02/usda-uncovers-plot-to-import-fake-chinese-organic-food/

The agency's National Organic Program (NOP) made public a fraudulent organic certificate produced by an uncertified supplier in China. The Chinese firm used the counterfeit certificate to represent non-organic crops, including soybeans, millet and buckwheat, as certified organic.

Ecocert, a French USDA accredited certifying agent whose name was illegally used on the fraudulent document, brought this issue to the attention of NOP officials at USDA, which regulates and oversees the American organic market.

"By working closely with certifying agents, and sharing concerns like this with the wider organic community, the USDA’s National Organic Program is working as it was designed by Congress to protect ethical industry participants and the public," says Mark A, Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute. "Unfortunately, this incident also serves as a stark reminder that imports from China are fraught with peril."

In its 2009 report on the organic soy industry, entitled Behind the Bean, The Cornucopia Institute raised concerns about organic soybeans imported from China. The recent finding by the USDA, spotlighting fraud by a Chinese supplier, confirms the suspicions documented by Cornucopia that imported organic products cannot always be trusted and that domestically sourced organic soybeans are more desirable.

In the 2009 report, the Wisconsin-based farm policy research group estimated that as much as half of organic soybeans used in the US came from overseas, primarily China.

“This incident illustrates why so many responsible processors and marketers in the organic industry shun organic imports,” states Charlotte Vallaeys, the Cornucopia report’s lead author.

After multiple incidents of food contamination, including melamine in pet food, many US corporations are now, justifiably, leery of putting their brand name on products containing Chinese ingredients, conventional and organic.

Cornucopia had, since the middle part of the last decade, been voicing concerns about imported products from China. It had blasted the USDA, during the Bush administration, for providing oversight of domestic organic certification programs while, for years, ignoring imports from China.

Cornucopia's report noted that imported soybeans are often shipped to the U.S. by corporations knowing nothing about the origin of the commodities over and above a single sheet of paper. The report stated: “It is all too easy to falsify these records, whether intentionally or unintentionally.” Today’s release by the USDA of a falsified organic certificate from China confirms these concerns.