Organic fertilizer fraud ends with guilty plea

02/29/2012 05:57:00 PM
Coral Beach

Townsley was apprehended at Los Angeles International Airport Oct. 9, 2010, while he was en route from Mexico to Canada. He was released on Oct. 12, 2010, and remained free after the bail was increased on Oct. 15 to $350,000.

A superseding indictment filed July 7, 2011, charged Townsley with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and seven counts of mail fraud. He pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud, admitting to sending the OMRI renewal forms for Biolizer XN in 2005-06 that included untrue statements.

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Matt Moser    
Michigan  |  March, 01, 2012 at 09:16 AM

This whole situation calls into question many things about "organic" agriculture, especially in California. It took 2 years before CA officials could respond properly? Obviously it is a blow to the integrity of organic "certifications" and the organic industry. Since it is so difficult to be organic East of the MIssissippi River, I am an organic cynic and conventional methods proponent. The only real health issue here seems to be a mental health issue in that die-hard organic believers and proponents may have got their minds poisoned by the whole thing. In any case, the guy obviously did a lot of damage to the organic growers and industry, which I will admit is a very important market segment, even to a die hard "conventionalist" like me. He deserves a just punishment.

Chris Koger    
Lenexa, Kan.  |  March, 01, 2012 at 01:02 PM

Besides The Sacramento Bee, the mainstream press largely ignored this story when it came to light several years ago. Here is some of The Packer's coverage: As far as we know, no company was barred from selling its produce as organic during or after this investigation. Chris Koger News Editor

Watsonville  |  March, 01, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Does this mean the ground cant be organic again for three years or does the state turn the other way?

Salinas  |  March, 01, 2012 at 04:31 PM

If I remember correctly the growers affected were given a pass, which doesn't seem true to the NOP Rules and consumer expectations. I'm with Matt in Michigan. I see nothing wrong with conventionally grown produce. Even Organic produce has pesticides sprayed on them.

Fresno  |  March, 01, 2012 at 11:32 AM

So let me get this straight..for 8 years the Ca Dept of Food & Ag knew about this fertilizer being sold for organic crop use knowing it was fraud and never said anything until now..the consumer pays premium prices at the market for organic items..Shame on the Ca Ag excuse for their poor performance

Texas  |  March, 01, 2012 at 03:11 PM

Cali has to make money some how.

Mischa Popoff    
Osoyoos BC Canada  |  March, 03, 2012 at 12:16 PM

The key point missing from this story, and one which I talk about in my book, "Is it Organic?" is the fact that this organic-pretender was eventually caught because the California Dept. of Ag did a test to confirm synthetic ingredients were present in his "organic" fertilizer. There is a near complete lack of testing in the organic industry. Certification is honor-based and only a few states (Washington, Texas and Arizona for instance) require a test to ensure prohibited substances are not being used. Imagine the Olympics with athletes filling out paperwork to "prove" they're clean. Would anyone take that seriously? Miles McEvoy (the Deputy Administrator of the USDA's National Organic Program) says he will proceed with a plan requiring state and private certifiers under his watch to begin testing organic crops, livestick and processing facilities (including fertilizer plants) on a surprise basis. But so far he has done nothing. The concept of organic field testing was first proposed back in 1997, but the leaders of the organic industry lobbied it out of existence. No ownder there are charlatans out there like California Liquid Fertilizer, and no wonder the organic biz has grown so rapidly. You can learn more by visiting my website,

Peshastin Wa.  |  March, 05, 2012 at 02:11 PM

" I buy organic because there aren't any chemicals used." The number 1 answer to the question, "why do you spend extra money on organics." How sad is the misconception about this environmental mystery?

Marvin Greenberg    
Toronto, Canada  |  April, 05, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Is there strict inforcement of certified Organic growers? One organization for all Organic growers? One standard, one definition world wide? of course not! Fragmentation of unclear enforcement, in the meantime why not bury this guy from Canada up to his neck in his fertilizer at the border or send him through the proposed new pipe line to the Oil Sands of Alberta as a test to clean the pipe out!

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