Cornucopia said it is "highly concerned" by reports from Canadian truckers that Jirah is said to be continuing to ship organic grain into the US and has been observed unloading containers of imported soybeans. The Institute has reached out to operations selling organic grain and feed asking that they contact Cornucopia, confidentially, if they have dealt with Jirah in the past.
Michael Saumur, the Canadian regulator added, "We hope potential buyers will be careful."
Jack Erisman, an organic crop producer in Pana, Ill., reported that "Even with growing demand from organic egg and dairy producers, over the past two years, I have had soybeans that I could not sell in the marketplace."
Cornucopia's investigation also brought the group in contact with Canadian farmers familiar with Jirah's activities. "The Canadian farmers' allegations, reported to us, were that Jirah was buying a nominal quantity of legitimate organic soybeans but the vast majority of their beans were coming from conventional IP [identity preserved], GMO-free growers," Kastel said. "These Canadian growers are the real heroes; they brought this apparent fraud to the attention of Canadian regulators and Cornucopia and tirelessly pushed for action," observed Kastel.
Cornucopia said it was a grave disservice to all the ethical Canadian farmers to have their reputations besmirched by the action of one greedy marketer. "With the exception of this bad aberration, Canadian farmers can be trusted just as much as U.S. producers," said Kastel.
The CFIA's suspension of Jirah's organic certification took effect on July 25. Ten days after the announcement, the USDA and its National Organic Program alerted the U.S. market to the suspension, noting that this operation could no longer "sell, label or represent their products as organic" due to non-compliance with organic regulations. Canada and the U.S. have a formal equivalency agreement covering organic food and agriculture.
"This is an excellent example of the system working as it was designed," said Will Fantle, Research Director at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. "Our only serious disappointment is that it took so long for Canadian officials to act and over a week for the USDA to publicly warn participants in the organic industry not to purchase suspect products from the suspended Canadian source."
Jirah's most recent in a series of "serial" organic certifiers had been Letis , based in Argentina. Independent third-party accredited operations like Letis are charged with acting as the overseers of organic integrity. "It's very unusual for United States or Canadian farmers or organic handlers to contract with foreign certifiers, who typically work in their country of origin," said Fantle. Letis was ordered by Canadian regulators to pull its organic certification of Jirah.
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