Reply to:

Mr Hugo Jansen,
Laagstraat 30, 4641 SP Ossendrecht

May 31, 2006

Dear Mr Jansen,

Subject: Complaint against Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand (ACT)

Further to my letter to you of March 31, 2006 and after some investigation I want to update you on the following points:

  1. Who is NN certified by?
    Before January 2006 (the time of your visit), NN was solely certified by Soil Association Certification Ltd of the UK initially based on inspections performed by SACert themselves and then later contracted inspections by ACT of Thailand. From January 2006, NN has been certified by ACT. This explains your concern about the absence of NN on ACT operator lists. If you should ask ACT now for an operator list, NN should appear. This issue is therefore dropped from the investigation and I suggest that you may like to correct this error/misunderstanding on your web site.
    However, the fact that ACT are now certifying NN brings the issue directly under our scope of investigation.
    Lastly on this issue, in your letter of March 14th and on your web site you question the transparency of the sub-contracted inspection system between SACert and ACT. On that same web site you also point out the problems with maps, language, culture etc. The latter in effect answers the former doubt and is why the IFOAM Norms and organic legislation world-wide permit such arrangements i.e. to use local knowledge, expertise, cultural understanding, language ability and proximity to provide a rigorous inspection system. As you yourself found in Thailand, a foreigner trying to find out what is really happening makes no sense.
  2. Use of treated seeds
    If indeed treated seed was used (and I have no further evidence as yet for or against this allegation) I would like to point out that this may have been legitimate use under IFOAM Norm 4.1.2 which states that
    ‘Where untreated conventional seeds and plant materials are not available, chemically treated  seed and plant material may be used. The certification body shall establish time limits and conditions for exemptions that permit use of any chemically treated seeds and plant materials’ 
    Similarly under ACT standards clause 2.2.2:
    ‘In case seed and plant propagation cannot be from organic agriculture, using of conventional seed is allowed but chemical treatment is prohibited. Exception can be made when organic farming is in the early stage of development or there is unexpected accident; therefore, chemical traded seed and plant propagation may be used. But by the year 2010, producers shall develop seed production and plant propagation within the farm or exchange them with other organic producers.’
    This aspect of the investigation however continues alongside your concern (though without evidence) over the ability to produce sweet corn in Thailand organically and the implied use of conventional inputs..
  3. Manner of investigation
    In your letter of March 14th you also suggest that you would like to see this case investigated without notification of ACT. As I pointed out in my last letter, you yourself have done more than anyone to ensure that any ‘cover up’, should one have been necessary, will have taken place. By suggesting such a course, you are implying that ACT is complicit with the ‘fraud’ of using treated seeds but without providing any evidence or even suspicion. We therefore are asking ACT to conduct their own investigation into this case (which is our normal course of action) and to provide a report to the IOAS. This we will do whether you wish to proceed in this manner or not.
  4. Role of Vitoon Panyakul
    You have not responded to me as to whether you wish to follow this up. To the ‘cynical’, as you put it, the multiple role of Mr Panyakul may seem dubious. However as Board member of ACT he will have no role in decision making in Thailand (this role is performed by a separate Certification Committee) and at the the level of the IOAS, he has no role in decision-making with regard to ACT. Recognising that the organic movement is at times small, both the IFOAM Norms and IOAS procedures are absolutely rigorous in this regard and more so than more general requirements (e.g. ISO65) set by industry in general. This issue is now considered closed.
    In summary I am continuing to investigate the specific allegations on use of treated seed and the implied use of conventional inputs.

I will contact you when I have further information.

Yours sincerely,

David Crucefix PhD
Assistant Executive Director