Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture


12.05.2017 |

The labels said ‘organic.’ But these massive imports of corn and soybeans weren’t.

Workers at Laiwu Manhing Vegetables Fruits in China’s Shandong province prepare to pack and ship ginger last June. The crop, though grown organically, doesn't meet U.S. organic standards, because of pesticide residue left after washing. It’s not sold as organic in the United States or Europe, the company said. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

A shipment of 36 million pounds of soybeans sailed late last year from Ukraine to Turkey to California. Along the way, it underwent a remarkable transformation.

The cargo began as ordinary soybeans, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Like ordinary soybeans, they were fumigated with a pesticide. They were priced like ordinary soybeans, too.

But by the time the 600-foot cargo ship carrying them to Stockton, Calif., arrived in December, the soybeans had been labeled “organic,” according to receipts, invoices and other shipping records. That switch — the addition of the “USDA Organic” designation — boosted their value by approximately $4 million, creating a windfall for at least one company in the supply chain.

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