Listen: Why Food Reformers Have Mixed Feelings About Eco-Labels
"Support for this podcast and the following message come from American pest as the leading provider of safe, sustainable pest control solutions across the DMV. Let American past help you to take back your home or business. From menacing pests visit them today at American pest dot net. We are what we right food companies know that. So they make labels that appeal to a person's ideals organic or cage free, fair trade. And here's Dan, Charles looked into these labels for our life kit podcast, and he found out some people who depend on these labels, also have mixed. Feelings, Rebecca Thistle Thwaite has spent most of her life trying to build a better food system. I am the program manager of the niche, meat processor assistance network. Jehovah's people figure out how to make a living farming in a way that's good for the environment and humane for animals, I would never do away with labels. I think that farmers and food producers need to be able to tell their story and the words organic or pasture raised can help tell the story. Yet, labels, frustrated her there can be such a gap between what they seem to promise and what they actually deliver and marketing fills that gap, so for instance, free range eggs, probably came from hens. It's spent most of their lives indoors or another example, non GMO. I'm going to say offhand that is probably my least favorite label non GMO means the food wasn't made from genetically modified crops. The main ones are corn. Soybeans and sugar beets, but companies are putting non GMO on things like strawberries, or mangoes that aren't ever, genetically, modified, apparently, because people think non GMO means good for the environment, maybe less pesticide, spraying. But it does not non GMO crops are still conventionally grown with synthetic pesticides. Fertilizer 's there's no significant environmental benefit on the other hand organic, really does me no synthetic pesticides. And fertilizers Matthew Dillon who's director of agriculture policy for the cliff bar company thinks that's the most trustworthy eco label. It's fully transparent. It's enforced by law. It's got teeth to it, but the organic industry also over promises. He says it's not really clear that. Organic food is healthier for you. The consumer makes a difference primarily to farmers to rural communities to soil health animal welfare, and finally, there's an even deeper problem with labels. It came up when I was talking with Kim Elena. Unesco. Chief sustainability officer for the specialty coffee association. We were talking about the benefits of fair trade coffee, strengthening smallholder farmer cooperatives. And there's a minimum price, guaranteed, regardless of the volatility in the market, and chances are, you're making somebody's life better. I hope so. You don't sound super convinced. Well, that's where I feel like the marketing piece gets tricky, the problem, she says is maybe that minimum price just isn't enough to lift a small coffee producer out of poverty. I mean it's possible that, that producer has a very small amount of land, and there's no price high enough to make that that tiny plot of land at a viable economic support system for the family, or as Rebecca Thistle tweet, put it labels. Are there like bandaids? They're just superficial kind of feel good solutions to systemic problems. Those e co labels like organic or grass-fed. They may not preserve much wildlife habitat or slow down. Global warming, which seems kind of depressing, but Matthew Dillon cliff bar says it shouldn't be consumers actually should feel relieved face should first of all, understand that improving the food system is not all on them that they should. Don't feel guilt, and shame about the purchases. They make our individual shopping decisions are not going to solve these big problems. He says, but political decisions really could like environmental regulations. He says that's what we ought to be focusing on Dan, Charles NPR news."