Mischa Popoff grew up on an organic grain farm and spent some of his early working career as an organic crop inspector in British Columbia.

So when Popoff, currently a policy advisor for the Heartland Institute, says the current system for certifying organic foods is flawed, he’s not just another conventional-agriculture advocate complaining about expensive organic food.

“I think there are a lot of honest organic farmers out there at least here in North America, but they’re lucky if they’re supplying half the $30-billion market for organic food,” he says. “The other half comes from foreign countries under USDA certification.”

USDA certification, in this case, can be misleading, says Popoff, the author of a new book titled “Is It Organic, The inside story of who destroyed the organic industry, turned it into a socialist movement and made million$ in the process,” and a speaker at the Southern Crop Production Association annual meeting in Jacksonville, Fla.

Popoff’s book is one of a number of works that have raised questions about the benefits and safety of organic foods. A recent Stanford University study said its researchers found no more nutritional value in organically-grown than in conventionally-produced food.

Like many stories surrounding the environmental movement, certification of organic foods has taken a lot of twists and turns before evolving into the system that governs inspection of organic foods today.

“The brilliance of the organic activists is what they came up with under the rubric of the United States Department of Agriculture is a system that you essentially can’t fail. There’s no measurement in it. You pay your fees, fill out the paperwork and you’re off to the races. And you’ll garner double or triple the market price whether it’s at the farm gate or the store shelf under USDA organic certification.”

For many years, organic activists “were banging their heads against the wall,” fighting for market share customer by customer and dollar by dollar, he says. Then, in 1974, a group of organic farmers decided to go to Washington and ask for regulation of organic foods.