Executive Briefings

Is It Really Organic? Here's Why It's Hard to Know

Last week, 36 million pounds of imported nonorganic soybeans suddenly obtained "organic" labels for domestic sale after entering California. This could happen because soybeans, like other foods, are imported via complex global supply chains, involving many different specialist businesses between the farmer and the final customer.

Is It Really Organic? Here's Why It's Hard to Know

Regulating these supply chains to ensure, for example, that "organic" foods deserve their labels is hard. Here are five reasons why.

1) The U.S. government doesn't enforce its standards for organic foods.
The key regulator for organic foods in the United States, under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, is the Department of Agriculture. The USDA is in charge of regulating organic food, both when it is produced in the United States and when it is imported. It's illegal to sell imported foods as organic in the United States unless the product meets USDA standards.

However, the USDA doesn't actually administer the standards for imported foods. Instead, the certification — checking that the food meets U.S. standards — is done by USDA-recognized foreign regulators or USDA-authorized third-party organizations. This means the USDA outsources its authority to its equivalent agencies in other countries, as well as third-party certifiers.

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Regulating these supply chains to ensure, for example, that "organic" foods deserve their labels is hard. Here are five reasons why.

1) The U.S. government doesn't enforce its standards for organic foods.
The key regulator for organic foods in the United States, under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, is the Department of Agriculture. The USDA is in charge of regulating organic food, both when it is produced in the United States and when it is imported. It's illegal to sell imported foods as organic in the United States unless the product meets USDA standards.

However, the USDA doesn't actually administer the standards for imported foods. Instead, the certification — checking that the food meets U.S. standards — is done by USDA-recognized foreign regulators or USDA-authorized third-party organizations. This means the USDA outsources its authority to its equivalent agencies in other countries, as well as third-party certifiers.

Read Full Article

Is It Really Organic? Here's Why It's Hard to Know