(details added nov. 18)
WHAT WE DID AT THE BIOFACH IN NURNBERG.
The members of our group used Biofach to meet IFOAM officials, IOAS officials, Soil Association representants, certifiers from many countries and some consultants. We verified what we already thought to be true: controls are based on thrust and leave the door open to fraud. We tested our proposals: unannounced controls at all producers and all adressed on the internet. We noted carefully who made which objections to these proposals.
WHAT WE LEARNED AT THE BIOFACH.
The higher IFOAM officials were receptive and understanding and said that fraud had already their full attention. The other IFOAM officials kept a distance and were sceptic. The IOAS officials saw practical problems but were not convincing. Soil Association representants were so busy that many people who wanted to speak to them did not succeed in that and became angry after a few days of trying. Other certifiers were quite open and friendly, but their information confirmed our worries. Consultants confirmed our doubts about the organic status of many imported products.
IOAS: IF WE CHANGE TO UN-ANNOUNCED CONTROLS WE WILL LOOSE 50% OF OUR MEMBERS.
This was the most remarkable statement I heard at Biofach. I heard it from the IOAS director and from the assistant director. The interesting question then is: WHY ?
Their answers to that question were vague and not convincing: it would be to expensive. This clearly cannot be the case: unannounced visits are the most efficient way to find fraudulent producers. (Almost the only way !)
It looks as if IOAS directors are afraid that with BETTER CONTROL a lot of members will not find it attractive anymore to stay in IOAS. Why could that be?
Well, it could be that fraudulent members do not like better controls.
Does that mean that 50 % of their members are fraudulent ?
EUROPEAN CERTIFIERS WORK WITH LOCAL CONTROLLERS. “THRUST” IS THE ESSENCE.
I spoke to quite a few certifiers, and all of them make use of local controllers. They find it OK to have confidence in these local controllers. The local controllers go to the farms and fill in the questionnaires. These lists are sent to England or Germany or Italy for instance ( Soil Association, BCS, BioAgriCert ) and there is decided weather the farms are really organic. IF the local controller would forget to check weather the seeds were treated with chemicals, and then decide to score ‘not treated’, no certifiers in Europe would ever find out, as they hardly ever see a field themselves.