Govt began extra steps to check for fraud in organic farming certification
The Commerce Ministry has started putting in place new measures to fix problems with organic farming certification on the field. This involves auditing organic farming certification organizations.
The development followed ‘several anomalies found in the certification activities,’ according to the Ministry, in response to a grievance filed with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) by the Chennai-based service organization Sri Sri Swami Vivekananda Trust (SSVT).
The SSVT wrote to the PMO on February 9 to ask that organic cotton certification be enforced in order to protect customers and small farmers.
‘Based on the gravity of the non-compliances, the National Accreditation Board (NAB) has taken action against non-compliant operators and certification bodies in accordance with the NPOP (National Programme for Organic Production) catalogue,’ the Ministry said.
The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has also been working on ways to stop similar things from happening in the future.
‘APEDA is strengthening the monitoring mechanism with IT-enabled instruments and information verification with validation services,’ the Ministry added.
According to trade sources, the response came ‘ironically’ two days before Anupriya Patel, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, told the Lok Sabha that the Ministry had received ‘no specific information’ on the ongoing organic certification scam in which non-organic produce was falsely certified as organic.
Organic India brand loss
The SSV trust expressed concern in its representation that errors in organic cotton certification had resulted in the loss of the ‘Organic India’ trademark worldwide.
The trust said that the number of projects has stayed the same, even though the certification of organic cotton projects changed hands several times between May 2013 and January 2021. The certification was subsequently distributed to four agencies. Two of these certifying agencies were suspended last August. These are examples of how ‘the large-scale organic cotton certification projects have been a ‘peculiar phenomena’.
The trust requested that the Centers develop comprehensive statutory organic textile standards for the value chain.
In addition to pushing a German-based private label standards organization, the trade urged an emphasis on ‘poor organic enforcement’ to improve the Organic India brand.
The trust also asked the government to tell the public when organic certification organizations are suspended or shut down. It also asked the government to put limits on the organic trade of products like cotton, basmati rice, sesame seed, and turmeric that have problems.
It stated that restoring consumer trust and the reliability of the Organic India brand as ‘vibrant and honest’ is more essential than temporarily losing trade income.