Re: Organic certification

Gwyneth E. Harris (gharris@zoo.uvm.edu)
Tue, 28 Oct 1997 08:57:10 -0500 (EST)

Bob and Debbie seem to have hit on the perfect solution (in my book).
"Certified Organic" is a term which really is only relevant to me when it
is applied to the farms I don't know about personally. When I buy
locally, I buy not according to labels, but according to who, and which
methods of growing, I want to support. For example, there is a grower
nearby that is not certified organic, but I know that they spray only one
crop - I would rather buy from this grower than from some faceless,
nameless, large-scale grower who is "certified organic",
but may still be spraying regularly and heavily with pesticides
which, although they are certified organic, don't fit with my own
philosophy of organic growing.
The USDA should not be taking away the
right of consumers to see and trust the label of organic as they choose.
The key to "trusting" labeling is to get educated and know where your food
supply comes from! Growers who already try to grow responsibly should not
be punished by fees for using a term that they invented! What has
happened to freedom of speech? I take heart though - Ben and Jerry's won
their right to label their ice cream as rBGH free. To me this is a
parallel fight - and as a consumer I WANT the right to know what is or is
not in my food. Forcing growers to pay to be able to tell us this is
anti-competitive and anti-consumer. Yet I do understand that there has to
be some safe guard against fraudulent use of the term "organic". So make
it "certified organic", and if a grower can maintain a local market by
establishing trust with that market WITHOUT "the label", let that grower
advertise food for what it is - organic.

On Tue, 28 Oct 1997, Bob MacGregor wrote:

> Debbie Teeter is right on.
> I have been wondering why USDA has to preempt all uses of "organic"
> and "natural" when all they really have to nationalize is the term "certified
> organic" to accomplish their goal of guaranteeing consumers are getting
> what they think they are getting. This would avoid cutting off the large
> number of non-certified local suppliers (whose clientele trust them even
> if they aren't certified). The issue of the consumer being able to
> discriminate among the terms is one of education; it isn't a hard concept
> to grasp that certified growers have passed some official test of their
> practices and the others haven't. In the farmer's market, I can buy from
> any local organic grower and trust them even if they aren't certified. In
> the supermarket, I'll be more likely to go for certified organic produce,
> since I have no personal knowledge or connection with the producers.
>
> I also agree, partly, with the comment about looks and price. Most
> consumers trust their food; they buy by price and appearance -- if
> organic food doesn't look as good and/or costs a lot more, then only
> die-hard "greens" will be paying the premium. The main caveat here is
> that chemically-produced food doesn't have all the external impacts/cost
> of the production methods included in the price that consumers pay.
> That is, conventional produce is underpriced relative to its true social
> cost of production --- the citizenry absorbs the cost in taxes and
> environmental and health deterioration rather than paying it in the market.
>
> BOB
>
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