Mass balancing: we need more data to efficiently fight fraud

Gerald A. Herrmann - director of Organic Services. Gerald’s engagement for organic dates back to the 1980ies. He is a renowned industry expert and speaker. For almost 20 years he worked for Naturland association and held honorary positions, e.g. as president of IFOAM – Organics International. Today, he is director of Organic Services, the international consultancy, that provides i.a. certification and fraud prevention solutions. At BIOFACH 2020, Gerald explained how mass balancing based on acreage, yield, certification and product transaction data can effectively detect fraud in the organic sector.

What is mass balancing all about?

A mass balance compares the “input volumes” and the “output volumes” of a supply chain and thereby checks the plausibility of produced vs. sold organic quantities. For this purpose, Organic Services offers the online-platform Check Organic, where the required data can easily be uploaded, where plausibility calculations happen automatically and where an intuitive traffic light system informs all users about the integrity status of suppliers and transactions. In this way, all supply chain parties can significantly mitigate fraud risks and be ensured that they are really selling what their labels promise.

So what is stopping us from going ahead?

Unfortunately, regulators today do not (yet) require certifiers to digitally collect and publish the required acreage data. Since the sector doesn't know the actual acreage on which organic produce is being grown, it remains unable to detect fraud in all its different shapes and forms. This becomes especially apparent in scandals where an operator has an EU, an US and a Chinese organic certificate for the same field, and sells three times the amount that can be grown on these fields, using the different certificates as internationally accepted proof of organic integrity. Which brings us to the greedy, ugly part of business: trade is trade, and trade wants to trade. As long as fraud opportunities are there, there will be people to seize them. Therefore, a systematic, multifactorial approach is required, with transparency efforts becoming mandatory for all supply chain parties. Together we can eliminate fraud and reward integrity - and Check Organic can serve as one tool to reach this goal.

Please have a look at the Check Organic video below which was taken during BIOFACH 2020, and flick through the powerpoint-presentation underneath it.

Video

Powerpoint Slides

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