It was only a matter of time before someone took advantage of the organic industry's unwillingness to police themselves (and USDA seemingly being unwilling to police any farmers) and engaged in spectacular fraud.
The largest that we know of is Randy Constant, whose Iowa-based brokerage falsely marketed non-organic corn and soybeans as certified organic on a massive scale. His sales amounted to 7 percent of U.S. organic corn in 2016 and 8 percent of US organic soybeans. From 2010 to 2017, he sold more than 11.5 million bushels of grain, or enough to fill 3,600 rail cars, prosecutors said.
Though he was given a white collar crime sentence at a minimum security facility, and they were even letting him self-report, he killed himself with carbon monoxide in his garage.
Why did he do it? He likely felt little guilt because he knew a lot of organic farmers were fraudulently selling organic food. And he had to have known overseas imports of organic food do it. If people want to pay for Zicam, they do it even though it'd a placebo. Some claim it helps them. That is what a placebo is, after all.
Can someone be a greedy fraud and still a good parent, spouse, and friend? Absolutely. And that is how they are choosing to remember him. Constant’s wife Pam said in a statement, “I know Randy was deeply ashamed of his conduct. As much as we tried to be there for him … it was clearly just too much for Randy.” He was, she said, “a wonderful father, community leader, tireless volunteer and my beloved husband of 39 years.”
Three others he recruited were also convicted.
Did the animals know the difference? No. Did consumers? No. And studies have shown that if people are buying imported organic food it is a roll of the dice. Everyone is just trusting that they are all getting paid to give out organic stickers but aren't motivated by money.
But the intellectual placebo of buying organic does not make it legal to defraud people any more than it is legal for a doctor to prescribe a placebo (outside a clinical trial.) People are paying for a sticker and even if it is a meaningless sticker, they expect it is going to be honest.