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A judge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa sentenced Randy Constant, the leader of a organic food fraud scheme, to 122 months in prison. Constant had from 2010 to 2017 organised farmers to sell conventionally grown maize and soyabeans mixed with a small amount of certified organic grains, as wholly organic produce. The scheme was estimated as earning around a total of US$120 million, and could have accounted as much as 7% of the US organic maize production and 8% of the US organic soyabean production in 2016. Three other farmers involved with suppying the crops were given smaller sentences.

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The three farmers ran a certified organic farm in Overton, Nebraska, but also farmed other non-certified fields in the area. Maize and soyabeans produced from these fields were sold as organic, at much higher prices to customers both directly and via an as-yet unnamed business. They are thought to have made $11 million over 7 years by defrauding their customers.

Earlier this year, the US Department of Agriculture raised concerns about organic produce imports (see News blog 13 March 2018), and published a preliminary list of businesses allegedly using fraudulent certificates to claim their products are organic. It has since extended that list to more than 100, and of these around 20 were US-based businesses. To try to address the problem, a three-month pilot was launched in the US to prevent and detect fraud in the country’s organic food chain. The pilot will focus on identifying and assessing specific weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the supply chain, identifying and taking measures to reduce those vulnerabilities, establishing a monitoring programme for fraud prevention measures, and developing a complaint system to be used when fraud is suspected or detected.

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