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September 16, 2005

"Sustainable" Food Label


A new, lower-priced form of more environmentally sound food might be soon available, carrying a "sustainable" label. This article in the Sand Diego Union-Tribune has more.

Certified growers must meet requirements regarding soil management, water quality, wildlife protection and labor practices, as well as pesticide use.

Supporters say the produce labeled as "sustainable" will be more affordable than organic fruits and vegetables.

"We're trying to get to those consumers in the middle," said Cheryl Brickey, executive director of Protected Harvest, a Maryland-based nonprofit that certifies produce as being grown according to the practices.

I don't know, though; it sounds kinda iffy to me. As Jeff at SustainaBlog points out, the farmers are still allowed to use synthetic pesticides.
Protected Harvest's certification program does not prohibit farmers from using synthetic pesticides – one of the most notable differences between it and organic certification. Farmers are scored on their pesticide practices and are asked to do detailed research before applying chemicals. Less is better, but other factors are considered, Rominger said.

"If you can't use chemical herbicide, you have to kill those weeds some other way," he said. "One way is to go out with a tractor and cut them out, but that costs you money, too, and you're burning diesel and you're stirring up the ground and could be causing erosion."

That doesn't sit well with me, because how can you label something "sustainable" if it's using synthetic pesticides? That is NOT sustainable. These goods are supposed to be cheaper and more environmentally sound, allowing more people to buy them than currently purchase organic goods, but I don't like using that particular word to describe them.
This summer, Protected Harvest received about $500,000 in grants from state and federal agencies to help fund the labeling system. The money will support the development of standards for a brand of so-called sustainable tomatoes in California, billed as the 'Sacratomato' because the produce is grown in fields near the state capital.

The group also has plans to certify sustainable strawberry, plum and nectarine farms. Seven vineyards already have the Protected Harvest certification.

The programs are modeled after the "Healthy Grown" potato, a sustainable russet grown in Wisconsin and certified by Protected Harvest. The group said there are 6,500 acres enrolled in that program, and farmers there used about 54 percent fewer toxic chemicals than the industry standard on that land.

At any rate, I'm glad that the efforts are being made, but I think that more research on the labelling and regulations should be done. Also, there's no mention of local food here at all. If this so-called "sustainable" produce is grown with synthetic pesticides, packaged, and shipped from California to the rest of the US... that's not very sustainable at all. For more, check out Grist.

Posted by George at September 16, 2005 8:43 AM Category: Alternatives