11 June 2001
‘Organic’ grain in Europe-wide scam

By Johann Tasker

VAST quantities of ordinary grain have been imported into Britain and sold on to the organic market in a scam involving massive frauds, it is alleged.

Norfolk-based Saxon Agriculture have admitted being duped into importing nearly 400 tonnes of the grain, believing that it was organic.

The grain was sold on and it entered the food chain. Investigations are continuing into similar deals involving grain markets across Europe.

The claims came to light during an investigation by The Money Programme, which will be shown on BBC2 at 7.30pm on Monday (11 June).

German public prosecutor Horst Hund told the BBC: “If the public knew what I knew, then consumer confidence in organic food would be shattered.”

Dr Hund is investigating claims that grain trader Hans Ernst Bastian made 3 million in illicit profits by selling 20,000 tonnes of ordinary grain as organic.

The programme contains other revelations about perfectly legal organic farming practises that will come as a surprise to many consumers.

It will reveal concerns over animal welfare in organic farming, and worries that organic imports are produced to lower foreign standards.

Up to 20% of conventional feed can be included in the diet of organic hens without affecting the organic status of the birds, the programme claims.

During the foot-and-mouth epidemic, organic hen diets have been allowed to contain up to 49% of conventional feedstuffs, it reports.

The belief that organic livestock farming is less intensive than conventional production will also be shown to be wide of the mark – in some cases at least.

The programme will focus an organic farm in Nottinghamshire, regulated by Organic Farmers & Growers, which houses 6000 chickens in a single shed.

Farmer Andrew Joret insists that the birds enjoy freedom of movement. He said: “Every one of the birds welfare needs is satisfied in this sort of house.”

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