Millions of people are planning on buying, giving and eating chocolate in celebration of love on Valentine’s Day. This time of year means big sales for chocolate companies. If you are interested in buying chocolate that supports fair labor standards, as well as those that do not harm the environment or your body, make sure you are well educated as to where your chocolate comes from and how it was harvested.
Of the many types and varieties of chocolate on the market, not all adhere to certifiable fair trade standards, which means there is little concern about the environment or the people who work hard to bring your sweet treat to a store near you. Those that do however will display the words Fair Trade on their labeling, making it easy for the consumer to be aware that they have kept up with the requirements necessary to be certified fair trade.
One notable chocolate manufacturing company that does not flaunt a fair trade certification, however surpassed fair trade standards and brought their harvesting and processing techniques to a remarkably high level of ideals. Kallari, the only line of world-class, certified organic dark chocolate is operated by an indigenous cooperative of organic cocoa growers who gain 100% of the profits for which they work so hard.
In 2002, a federal law passed that only allows products to be labeled “organic” if they have gone through the USDA certification process, but not every farmer who uses organic practices has the certification. The process is time consuming and also comes with a thousand dollar fee, and some small farmers simply find that the USDA’s program is a bad fit for the scale of their operations.
However, Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) offers farmers and beekeepers a way to assure consumers about their practices. We are frequently warned that the word “natural” is a marketing term used in greenwashing, but the farmers who participate in this program are committed to healthy and sustainable agriculture. “The O-word is forbidden unless you get special permission to use it, so we’re the alternative way to describe what they do,” explains Alice Varon, the executive director of Certified Naturally Grown. “It can be a very convenient short-hand way of communicating about their growing practices.”
There are 800 farms and apiaries located in 47 states that have the grassroots certification. From a consumer’s perspective, produce that carries the Certified Naturally Grown seal is equivalent to that which carries the USDA certification. It’s grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, synthetic herbicides or fungicides. Certified Naturally Grown’s standards are based on internally recognized standards. “We’re not trying to define anything radically different,” says Varon.
Five new members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will be taking office this January, having won approval from the USDA earlier this month. The 15-member board is responsible for setting and upholding the national organic standards, in addition to determining what substances may be used in USDA-certified organic products.
The NOSB is comprised of four farmers, three environmentalists, three consumer interest advocates, two handlers, one retailer, one scientist and one USDA certifying agent, in order to properly represent the different interests of the organic farming community.
The new members will be:
Harold V. Austin (Handler)
Austin current is the director of Orchard Administration at Zirkle Fruit Company, an organic fruit tree grower and shipper. He is also a board member of two organic advisories, the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Board and the Northwest Horticultural Council’s Science Advisory Board.
Carmela Beck (Farmer)
Beck is the National Organic Program Supervisor and Organic Certification Grower Liaison for Driscoll’s, one of the largest organic berry producers in the country. She previously worked for a an organic certification agency, and for the American Indian Resource Center.
The National Organic Standards Board will be holding their biannual meeting at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto in Savannah, Georgia, November 29 – December 2, 2011. “We think this meeting may well decide the fate of organic food and agriculture in this country,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute. The mission of the Cornucopia Institute states that they are “dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Through research, advocacy and economic development [their] goal is to empower farmers both politically and through marketplace initiatives.”
During this NOSB meeting, the Cornucopia Institute will be presenting formal testimony on several subjects including genetically modified and synthetic additives that have been petitioned for use in organic foods and drinks, including baby foods and formula. Part of their testimony will include findings from a consumer survey done by PCC Natural Markets, the largest member-owned food cooperative in the United States, that shows more than three fourths of consumers are opposed to such synthetic additives in their food.
The Cornucopia Institute is also concerned about a petition to the NOSB to allow the use of the synthetic preservative sulfur dioxide (sulfites) in wine. “Approving sulfites, not only a synthetic preservative but a common allergen, would represent another blow to consumer confidence in the organic label, which has always signified the absence of artificial preservatives,” Kastel noted.
Years ago, people went to one market or general store to pick up all of the groceries and household items on their shopping list. Today, we have a variety of choices when it comes to purchasing food and beverages, from super stores and warehouse clubs to farmers markets and joining a CSA in your community.
CSAs and farmers markets are similar in that both offer local, homegrown produce to customers at prices that are often much cheaper than at the grocery store, however they can differ in price, convenience and quality depending on where your food was grown. Regardless of whether you shop at a market or join a CSA, you are receiving fresher, higher-quality produce because it hasn’t been treated with the chemicals or preservatives necessary to mass-distribute and ship it around the world.
What is a CSA?
CSA, or community-supported agriculture, is a program that lets you purchase “shares” from a farm in exchange for a weekly delivery of fruits, vegetables and other farm products like milk, eggs and dairy.
By Michelle Schoffro Cook for Care2.com
1. In study after study, research from independent organizations consistently shows organic food is higher in nutrients than traditional foods. Research shows that organic produce is higher in vitamin C, antioxidants, and the minerals calcium, iron, chromium, and magnesium.
2. They’re free of neurotoxins-toxins that are damaging to brain and nerve cells. A commonly-used class of pesticides called organophosphates was originally developed as a toxic nerve agent during World War I. When there was no longer a need for them in warfare, industry adapted them to kill pests on foods. Many pesticides are still considered neurotoxins.
3. They’re supportive of growing children’s brains and bodies. Children’s growing brains and bodies are far more susceptible to toxins than adults. Choosing organic helps feed their bodies without the exposure to pesticides and genetically-modified organisms, both of which have a relatively short history of use (and therefore safety).
CSA, or community-supported agriculture, has become a popular alternative way to buy fresh, seasonal food directly from your local farmers.
If you aren’t satisfied with the cost or quality of the produce at your local grocery store or can’t make it to a farmers market, joining a CSA program is a way to ensure that you have the fruits and vegetables you need to prepare healthy meals.
Typically, farmers will sell “shares” to the public, which may include fruits, vegetables or other types of farm products like milk or eggs. Consumers can either pick up or opt to have their shares delivered directly to their door and receive a weekly box or bag of seasonal produce.
“I’ve been participating in an individual CSA with my farmer in upstate NY for the past three years,” said Anne Maxfield, entrepreneur and founder of The Accidental Locavore. “It’s been a wonderful experience. Besides getting the freshest possible produce from a farm where sustainable farming is the standard, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of vegetables (and some fruit) that probably wouldn’t have made it into my shopping cart at the supermarket.”
There are many ways that we identify ourselves, and one of our deepest set chosen identities tends to be political beliefs. Self-identified liberals and conservatives (rather than those that identify as “middle of the road”) tend to disagree strongly on a variety of subjects, from the size of government to taxation to gay marriage. A survey of 347, 949 Hunch.com users has identified that those who tend to support liberal or conservative politicians also disagree on what to eat.
Those who identified as liberal seem to be more likely to agree with what they read at DietsInReview. While conservatives were 65 percent more likely to eat fast food a few times per week, liberals were 92 percent more likely to eat fast food rarely or never. When it comes to french fries, conservatives consider McDonald’s the best of the best, while liberals are 64 percent more likely to prefer bistro-type fries.
Similar to their fast food choices, those who identify as conservative were 50 percent more likely to believe there is no significant difference between organic and processed food, while identifying yourself as a liberal makes you 28 percent more likely to disagree. Liberals are 29 percent more likely than conservatives to avoid soda and 27 percent as likely to drink only diet soda when they do. Those who identify as liberal are 28 percent more likely to eat fresh fruit daily, while those who identify as conservative are 35 percent more likely to eat fresh fruit less than once per week.
In our fifty nifty states, some are shining above others in the area of sustainability and organic food production.
When a food is titled organic, that means that it was produced using methods that avoided synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The food does not contain genetically modified organisms and it was not involved in radiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives while being processed. If livestock or meat products are labeled organic that means the animal was raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
Obviously this is how farming used to always take place. Synthetic inputs are a creation of more modern times. All of these organic practices have been linked to sustainability in that they foster the cycling of resources, contribute to ecological balance, and protect biodiversity.
The health benefits of eating organic products come from the simple fact that one is consuming food, not chemicals. While the jury is still out on what impact these chemicals and artificial elements exactly cause, if you’re like me, I’d prefer not to eat a bug spray or an artificial flavor if I can avoid it. Even if it may not be “that bad” for me.
The LA Times recently reported a dangerous food myth that has been circulating throughout the health-conscious community as of late: cookies and chips are tastier, have fewer calories, less fat and more fiber when they are organic.
Organic food labeling has been a hot button issue lately as the nutritional and medical communities often find themselves at odds with food manufacturers that market foods in such a way that consumers perceive organic products as healthier choices.
“There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there when it comes to food marketing,” said Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, of Halevy Life. “For example, Twizzlers are labeled as ‘low-fat’ but they have the same amount of carbohydrates as the average loaf of bread. And that is just one example of how [consumers] are being misled by labeling.”