“Most research says it takes about 5,000 pounds of finished compost to provide 200 pounds of nitrogen for use as fertilizer,” he said. “You start with about 10,000 pounds of manure and 120 days later you have 5,000 pounds of finished compost if you do everything right. Do you really think no one is cheating and using synthetic nitrogen to grow organic crops?”

Popoff’s claims have been challenged by organic food advocacy groups, including the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based non-profit.

Cornucopia’s experts call Popoff’s claims “unsubstantiated” and complain he’s another in a long line of critics such as Dennis and Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute that have challenged the authenticity of the organic food industry’s production and pricing practices.

But even Cornucopia agrees that changes need to be made to the USDA National Organic Program to improve the screening process for “toxic” chemicals in organic foods.

“We think there is great merit in doing spot testing, as Congress required, and we have criticized USDA for not having implemented testing until now,” Cornucopia’s Will Fantle said.

The USDA’s National Organic Program is currently soliciting public comments on a new federal ruleoutlining the periodic residue testing of organically produced agricultural products. The proposal calls upon independent organic certifiers to conduct more surprise inspections of organic operations.

Popoff says more is needed than just the current written records with auditors who simply look at the paper trail. He proposes that organic crops be randomly tested in the field in the middle of the growing season to ensure that no herbicides have been applied.

That testing needs to be conducted not only in the U.S. but also in countries that have adopted the USDA National Organic Program standards and ship their products into this country using the USDA certification label.

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