Did you happen to catch this coverage from National Public Radio?
Writer and professor of journalism at the University of Oregon Peter Laufer, set out to investigate two "organic" products he had in his kitchen. They were a can of black beans, with a label reading they were from Bolivia and a bag of walnuts – which turned out to be rancid – labeled that they were from Kazakhstan.
"I've done a lot of work in the former Soviet bloc, and when you look at the 'corrupt-o-meter,' it doesn't get much worse than Kazakhstan," Laufer said.
In Laufer's inquiries, the first red flag went up when he had a hard time getting answers out of the store managers, distributors and the company he questioned. "It seems to me if everything is clean as a whistle, then you'd be proud to say where the food came from," he said.
The second red flag went up when he noted that the companies that certify food as organic are paid by those that they certify. How is that not a conflict of interest?
Upshot of Laufer's investigation:
– An all-clear verdict for the black beans after he flew to Bolivia to see the farm of origin.
– The walnuts from Kazakhstan proved impossible to pin down. The U.S. Department of Agriculture was not able to cite any organic walnut producers in Kazakhstan, and questions posed to the Trader Joe's representatives resulted in mixed and confusing answers. One rep said that Trader Joe's only buys organic walnuts from Kazakhstan when supplies in California have run out. Another said that Trader Joe's buys walnuts from Uzbekistan, not Kazakhstan.
About that apparent conflict of interest: NPR offers a rebuttal from organic certification officer George Kalogridis. He points out that even though organic certifiers are paid by the companies they certify, certifiers are audited by the USDA.
This is just a summary. Read the full NPR article: CLICK HERE
Back in March, we at PBS Hawaii posed the question: Do you know what you are eating? Here's what guests said on INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAII.