Non-Organic Fertilizer Made it Into Foods

Report says a product popular with California producers contained ammonium sulfate - a synthetic fertilizer.

Published on: Jan 2, 2009
When is organic not organic? When the farmer using a popular fertilizer product finds that it also contains a synthetic fertilizer component. That's what's happening in California as organic growers are learning from the Sacramento Bee that a popular "organic" fertilizer from California Liquid Fertilizer was spiked with synthetic fertilizer.

The product was effective, inexpensive and approved by organic regulators in 2006 and at one time had as much as one-third of the state's fertilizer market. But the Salinas, Calif. company was caught tuning up the product with ammonium sulfate, a synthetic fertilizer banned from organic farms.

This news is impacting some large organic fruit, nut and vegetable producers including Earthbound Farm. The Bee acquired documents from the California Department of Food and Agriculture noting that officials were notified of the problem in 2004 but didn't complete their investigation and order the product off the market until June 2007.

State officials knew that some of California's largest organic farmers had been using the fertilizer, but they kept their findings private for more than a year after the fertilizer was removed from the market. No farms lost their organic certification.