A Note About "Organic"

I just wanted to share something that's a hot issue in my class right now: organic labeling.

Contrary to popular belief, there are very stringent international laws on the labeling of food with regard to 'organic'. Oftentimes, we consumers assume that when we buy organic produce we are supporting small farms, sometimes local farms, and the workers who labor on them.

In truth, that is not the case. Organic, as a label, simply means that the farming process for that item meets the international standards for organic. If you only buy organic for your health, good job! But if you also want to support social justice, a fair wage, etc, you should be looking for the Fair Trade Certified label. I've seen this on coffee and chocolate and ice cream, but not yet on fresh produce.

With regard to small farms and/or local farms, the organic label has NOTHING to do with that. In fact, the international regulations for organic are so stringent, it's a buerocratic nightmare AND a large fee to apply for the right to use that label. Therefore, many small farms (local and otherwise) cannot acquire the rights to label their produce "organic", even if it meets the standards for the label.

And there you have it- organic agro-food business runs just like large-scale corporation industries, including the packaged food industry, do.

You do have alternatives for supporting small farms and/or local farms, by buying at the nearest farmer's market, or belonging to a community-supported agriculture program or coop. This doesn't necessarily guarantee you organic (ask the farm workers for the truth on how the stuff is grown), but it does get you connected with the point of origin of those products.

Either way, you're investing more capital in a product because you care about eating healthier stuff, supporting social justice (often in developing countries), and supporting local business and small business in your area. And that's fabulous! Just be sure you do the legwork that is required, and keep your eyes open, so you know EXACTLY what your money is going for.

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