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"Residues in organic farming: sufficient indicators of fraud?"

Brussels (Belgium), 8-9 February 2023.

On behalf of the Spanish and European pistachio sector, the EPC went to the decision-making centre for organic certification: Brussels.

The objective: to expose the problem suffered by pistachio producers with the detection of phosphonic acid salts, and the subsequent paralysation of batches and investigations that last too long.

The Anti-Fraud Initiative (AFI) brings together annually the different actors of the certification chain and the investigation of agri-food fraud, to promote exchange on different aspects of the control of organic farming and its products. This year, the theme was the detection of residues of unauthorised products, and discussion on when to consider residues as sufficient proof of fraud.

This is a matter of personal concern in the organic pistachio sector because of the problems with phosphonic acid or its salts when they are detected in an analysis (see explanatory article). The suspicion of fraud due to the use of Fosetyl-Al paralyses the batch and forces a thorough investigation until the reason for the presence of these residues is found or all possibilities are exhausted, as dictated by European legislation.

During the event, the EPC established valuable institutional relations, received the support of entities that fight for greater visibility of the real problems of farmers and producers, derived from the current strict legislation, and was able to openly expose, before representatives of the European Commission, the problem that the freezing of batches represents for the entire organic pistachio sector. It was explained that the existence of the European organic pistachio is at risk, as producers and marketers do not want to, nor should they, bear the cost of having their batches stopped or losing organic certification when no fraud has been committed.

The general view of the speakers and participants is that there is a problematic lack of harmonisation between the different actors in the certification and fraud investigation chain. If protocols are not harmonised across Europe soon, the organic sector may collapse.

The EPC draws optimistic results from this visit. We will continue our search for solutions through the implementation of an action plan to make the problem visible and create critical mass to generate lobby.

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