In addition to the USDA's announcement , The Cornucopia Institute is offering a stern warning to U.S. buyers to avoid products represented as organic by Jirah, which has removed all information referencing organics from their website.
"We have received reports that they have continued to attempt to sell, since their suspension, using the certification documents of individual farmers from whom they are buying soybeans and other commodities," said The Cornucopia Institute's Kastel. "This would not be legal as any handler, storage facility, miller or roaster of soybeans would itself have to carry valid certification."
According to Canadian officials, unlike the laws governing organics in the United States, their certification/accreditation program, still in its infancy, has no provision for more serious penalties, other than suspension or cancellation of a company's right to do business. In the US certified entities found to be violating the law can be subject to fines of up to $10,000 per incident.
"We are also disappointed that the Canadian provincial and federal regulatory officials are not being more forthright with the public," commented Kastel. "In the past the USDA has released the details in terms of complaints, investigations and the facts found. Although we understand the allegations we do not even know for certain what violations led to the rare move to strip on organic processor/handler of their certification. This information should be public so that this incident can act as a deterrent"
The Cornucopia Institute has also had conversations with farmers on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, to assist them in preparing a class-action lawsuit seeking civil damages for any marketplace injury that reputable organic producers have incurred. "We encourage farmers who have been competitively injured to contact us regarding potential future litigation," said Will Fantle, Cornucopia's Research Director.
The Institute is also asking for help from industry stakeholders in identifying Jirah's U.S. customers. "We'd like to speak to additional companies that have done business with Jirah and we hope they will assist us in this ongoing investigation," said Fantle. Stakeholders can contact Cornucopia through its website, www.cornucopia.org .
The Cornucopia Institute has learned that Jirah might also be in the process of changing its ownership structure. "We continue to caution buyers of organic commodities against purchasing at prices that seem too good to be true, Kastel added. "It is incumbent upon responsible participants in this industry to do their own due diligence and not strictly rely on paper [certification documents] as the be-all, end-all for protecting the integrity of the products they are marketing."
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