Italy’s organic farming association (Aiab) revealed its inspections over the last year have found 754 irregularities, and it has now revoked its certification from 107 firms attempting to market 116 non-organic items as organic.

Aiab, which has 13,000 members, said irregularities accounted for 0.8% of its inspections, below the 1-2% benchmark the Ministry of Agriculture considers not alarming.

Organic fraud has come to the forefront, with news magazine Panorama publishing an investigative report on counterfeits. It said that one survey found some 3.2% of producers were not complying with organic farming regulations and 6.4% of ‘organic’ products are falsely labelled or contain chemicals.

There are now 54,645 Italian firms involved in organic farming and Italy leads organic production levels within the EU. Organics account for 6.5% of Italy’s harvest, a figure likely to increase to 15-20% by 2010.

Organic sales could reach 10,000bn lire by 2005.

By Hilmi Toros, correspondent