USDA/OCIA agree to pull organic certification authority in China

USDA has banned Organic Crop Improvement Association from certifying organic products imported from China after a USDA Ag Marketing Service audit found some of the OCIA workers in China had connections with the Chinese government.

OCIA says the problem came about when they formed a limited partnership with a government-owned Organic Food Development and Certification Center (OFDC) in China for the purpose of certifying Chinese operators. OCIA says they retained full control over the certification process including final review and certification of a producer.

In 2007 the USDA determined there was a conflict of interest because state-owned farms were being certified by inspectors who were directly employed by the OFDC which is owned by the Chinese government. OCIA was notified of a possible revocation by USDA in July of 2008; they appealed contending there was enough separation between the inspectors and the state farms.

While OCIA states they never inappropriately certified any organic Chinese products, they recognized any question about the integrity of their products would not be acceptable so they decided to end all operations in China last November. Under National Organic Program rules, OCIA cannot revoke certifications without cause so they asked all Chinese operations to either surrender their certification or transfer to another NOP accredited certifying agency. “As of June 8, 2010, all OCIA-certified operations in China have surrendered, transferred to another NOP-accredited certification agency, or have been suspended for cause.”

OCIA may still certify organic products coming in from other countries and may reapply to certify Chinese products in one year.

OCIA certified more than $3 billion worth of organic products in 2008.

Read the OCIA statement here:

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