I have a story posted over at Grist this week, California Schemin', on fraud in the organic fertilizer market. The issue has not gotten a lot of attention because, unlike pesticide residues, it doesn't end up on your food. But the scope of the fraud was truly mind-boggling. This story was in the works for months and delayed by internal staff changes at Grist. I was happy it finally saw the light of day.
Here's the intro:
It's no secret that the organic food industry has seen explosive growth, taking only a mild drubbing through the recession and then continuing its ascent. At the heart of that growth has been trust -- consumers are willing to shell out more bucks for organic because the food's been grown without synthetic chemicals, with that claim verified from farm to market.
Yet two major cases of federal fraud have been filed in the past six months, rocking the California farming world and alleging that probably millions of pounds of produce sold as organic over several years weren't worthy of the label.
So why haven't you heard about this? Because the shady practices came from a side of the farming world that few shoppers think about: the fertilizer industry. And the real dupes weren't consumers but organic farmers.