Many in agriculture know the organic certification process has been a less than airtight, although many consumers may not be aware. As I discussed in my May 2011 blog, certifying agencies have been inconsistent with the frequency of inspections, inspection standards, and the assessing punishments for violations. The National Organic Program (NOP) has attempted to tighten those leaks by establishing a periodic residue test on 5% of the farms certified by an independent agency.
The testing requirement will begin in 2013 and require a certifying agency test for pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetically modified organisms on at least 5% of the farms the agency certifies. It appears the breadth of the inspection has also increased as inspectors will be required to test pre-harvest and post harvest residues, and may go so far as testing the soil, water, waste, seeds, plant tissues, and processed products. Source: Beyond Pesticides
The rule comes two years after an U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) audit of the NOP which found NOP was not conducting periodic residue testing. The NOP’s budget was increased from $3.9 million to $6.3 million and its staff was increased from 16 to 31 in order to handle the testing requirements. On the down side, the new rules may end up de-certifying some producers. However, leaders of the organic industry will generally applaud the tighter regulations since the premiums charged for organic products are based on the credibility of the organic seal. The new regulations will help ensure the integrity and legitimacy of that seal.