LABELS: Linking Consumers and Producers
Welcome to the third issue of LABELS: Linking Consumers and Producers.
Labeling products with respect to the sustainability of their production,
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LABELS: Linking Consumers and Producers - Vol. 1, Number 3 August 22,
Table of Contents
- GMO Labeling: Good For Business?
- Dolphin Safe Label: Safe From Compromise?
- Mexico Looks To ISO 14000 Alternative
- IFOAM To Launch Certification Logo
- Textile Label Agreement Reached
- Minnesota Promotes 'Minnesota Grown' Products
- News Briefs
GMO LABELING: GOOD FOR BUSINESS?
Labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), now required in the
EU, may actually serve to expand the market presence of GMOs. The
European Parliament, on July 31, voted that genetically modified corn
and soybean seeds, feeds and foods containing GMOs must be labeled with
the percentage of GMO content. If a food product "may contain" a GMO,
it must be so labeled. Labeling of GMO-free food is optional. At press
time, the European Commission had not finalized either the compliance
date for GMO labeling nor information regarding enforcement.
Consumer and environmental groups pushed for labeling as a way of
warning consumers of what the groups termed the unsafe or unproved
ramifications of GMOs in the food system. However, the GMO regulations
passed by the EU may serve to promote GMO use, rather than hinder it.
Food producers will most likely be only mildly inconvenienced by the
regulations - quite a contrast to the revolutionary effect GMO labeling
was anticipated to have on the food and biotechnology industry.
With the EU-wide labeling scheme in place, bans on GMO products underway
in France, Austria, Italy and Luxembourg will be nearly impossible to
uphold, thus improving market access. The labeling scheme adopted by
the EU also laid to rest the possibility of segregating GMOs from
conventional products. Segregating products was vehemently opposed by
U.S. exporters. Segregating products, according to one study, would
have required fifteen separate facilities between farm and market,
making exports to the EU cost prohibitive for corn and soybean
The EU instead adopted the broader labeling designation that products
which "may contain" GMOs must be labeled appropriately. European
consumer groups cautioned that the "may contain" category could become a
catch-all for label-wary producers. Indeed, nearly three-fifths of
processed foods contain genetically-modified soybeans, a figure likely
only to increase as U.S. growers increasingly plant genetically modified
soybean plants. Because the "may contain" provision will have
widespread application, its stigmatizing value will likely be lost as
consumers grow familiar with its presence.
"Labeling the mutant tomato," THE ECONOMIST, August 9, 1997; "EU takes
further action on GMO labeling," FEEDSTUFFS, August 11, 1997.
DOLPHIN SAFE LABEL: SAFE FROM COMPROMISE?
The U.S. Senate reached a compromise agreement July 30, permitting the
importation of previously embargoed yellowfin tuna. The agreement,
passed unanimously by Congress August 15, allows for the importation of
tuna caught in compliance with an internationally agreed upon dolphin
conservation program designed to implement the so-called Declaration
of Panama of 1995. The Declaration is an international agreement
between the United States, Mexico and ten other nations to reduce
dolphin kills by tuna boats in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Under the Panama Declaration, countries agree to keep total annual
dolphin mortality resulting from purse seine fishery for yellowfin tuna
below 5,000 for the tropical Pacific Ocean. The purse seine method of
catching large yellowfin tuna was developed by fishers in 1957 and has
resulted in increased dolphin mortality. The U.S. embargo focused on
the use of purse seine nets for harvesting tuna and whether the
harvesting method killed dolphins at rates in excess of the Panama
Agreement. The U.S., in response to public outcry in the late 1980s,
established a "dolphin safe" label for tuna products, designating that
dolphins are not harmed during the harvesting process.
Under the compromise agreement, a study will be completed by the
Commerce Department on whether encircling tuna with purse seine nets
has a negative effect on dolphin stocks. If no significant adverse
impacts on dolphins are found during a three-year study, use of the
"dolphin safe" label will be allowed for tuna products caught using
purse seine nets.
The agreement is criticized by a number of environmental groups,
including Earth Island Institute, Public Citizen and the Humane Society,
as a trade agreement under the guise of environmental policy. Two
leading environmental groups, Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund (WWF),
supported the agreement. Greenpeace and WWF reportedly based their
support on the principle that free trade is the best way to get nations
to conform with sound environmental policy. The agreement's
environmental supporters say it will help them work with Latin American
countries to protect entire ecosystems. A spokesperson for Greenpeace
said of the agreement that, "It's a victory for dolphins and for other
Critics of the agreement say it renders the "dolphin safe" label
meaningless, as it allows for unreliable monitoring mechanisms and still
allows for an unacceptable dolphin mortality rate. Opponents argue that
Latin American tuna producers are not in compliance with the Panama
Declaration; they contend that observers on board tuna boats who keep
track of the number of dolphins killed are under significant pressure
from boat captains and possibly their countries' governments to under-
report the kill rate. Critics cite the recent case of two Venezuelan
biologists charged with treason for reporting that Venezuelan shark
fishermen killed 3,000 - 5,000 dolphins a year for bait.
"Ban on tuna about to be deep-sixed," JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, July 29,
1997; "Senate votes to lift U.S. tuna embargo," REUTERS, July 30, 1997;
"Senate votes to lift tuna embargo," FINANCIAL TIMES, July 31, 1997;
"Gobierno, satisfecho por fin del embargo atunero," LA PRENSA, July
31, 1997; "A political casserole of tuna and greens," U.S. NEWS & WORLD
REPORT, August 11, 1997.
MEXICO LOOKS TO ISO 14000 ALTERNATIVE
The Mexican government is working on an alternative to ISO 14000 aimed
at small and medium sized businesses for whom ISO 14000 certification is
not feasible or perhaps not necessary. At present, only four or five
Mexican companies have ISO 14000 certification. There is no
certification system based in Mexico, making certification costs
prohibitive for many businesses. The Mexican model for a voluntary
environmental management system will be compatible with ISO 14000,
geared toward businesses not serving the international market.
"Mexico plans national certification system, lower-cost alternative to
ISO 14000 series," INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT REPORTER, June 25, 1997.
IFOAM TO LAUNCH CERTIFICATION LOGO
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
Standards Committee is at work on developing an international logo to be
launched in early 1998. IFOAM began an accreditation program in 1992 to
accredit organic certification programs around the world. The IFOAM
logo, most likely to read "IFOAM Accredited," will be used in
conjunction with local or regional certification logos to communicate
that the certifier is accredited by IFOAM. For example, a producer
whose organic facility (farm, gin) is certified by an IFOAM accredited
certifier will have the IFOAM logo on their certification certificate to
demonstrate the credibility of the certification program. Carrying the
IFOAM logo is a statement regarding the certification program, not a
statement about the actual product. For more information on the IFOAM
logo contact Ken Commins, Executive Director at <Kcom@daktel.com>.
TEXTILE LABEL AGREEMENT REACHED
The U.S. approved an agreement with the European Union (EU) August 7
allowing European textile imports to bear "Made in Europe" labels
despite being manufactured with raw materials from non-EU countries.
The deal was reached in response to an EU complaint at the World Trade
Organization (WTO). The U.S. introduced rules of origin legislation in
July 1996 requiring labels on textile products to indicate the country
where the fabric was spun as the country of origin. This was disastrous
news for Italian and French apparel makers, as in the case of scarves,
where high-ticket Italian silk scarves would be required to bear a "Made
in China" label, thus decreasing its value to the consumer.
Under the agreement, the U.S. will change its rules of origin as part of
world-wide customs talks to be concluded by 1998, or by introducing
domestic legislation. An immediate exemption to the rules will be
granted while permanent action is pending. However, should a customs
agreement fail to be reached by July 20, 1998, the Clinton
Administration has warned that it will go to Congress to propose
reverting back to the July 1996 rules. The agreement does not include
tailored items such as shirts and ties.
"U.S. and EU sew up row over silk labels," WALL STREET JOURNAL, August
8, 1997; "U.S. accepts EU's 'made in Europe' label," FINANCIAL TIMES,
August 8, 1997.
MINNESOTA PROMOTES 'MINNESOTA GROWN' PRODUCTS
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is expanding its promotional use
of "Minnesota Grown" labeling for produce and other agricultural
products. The state also utilizes "Fresh From Your Neighbor" labels on
point-of-purchase materials and other promotion vehicles in neighboring
states. The promotion will expand this year in response to customer
demand for variety-identification stickers; unique Minnesota apple and
squash varieties will be designated with the "Minnesota Grown" logo.
"Efforts expand in various ways," THE PACKER, August 11, 1997.
The European Commission announced July 28 that its eco-label scheme now
includes 20 manufacturers and 166 products qualified to display the
trademark little flower logo. Products now carrying the eco-label
include washing machines from the Dutch manufacturer Frenko Verkoopmij
as well as the Hoover Company in the U.K.; paints from the Swedish
firm Nordsjo; as well as the French firm Reckitt and Coleman's "Down to
Earth" laundry detergent. U.S. paper and textile manufacturers argue
that the EU scheme discriminates against them, taking issue with the
methods and criteria used in the EU's life cycle analyses. "Eco-label
scheme reaches 'turning point' with 166 goods bearing logo, Commission
says," INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT REPORTER, August 6, 1997.
Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc. and a coalition of organic food companies
reached a settlement with the State of Illinois August 15, allowing
dairy product manufacturers to state on product labels that the ice
cream, yogurt or other dairy product does not contain recombinant Bovine
Growth Hormone (rBGH). rBGH is used to promote increased milk production
in dairy cows. Illinois, along with Hawaii, Nevada, and Oklahoma, have
laws prohibiting the use of so-called anti-hormone labels. "Natural-
food firms win label rights," WASHINGTON TIMES, August 15, 1997.
The Eco-Labeling Campaign has changed its name to the Consumer's Choice
Council. Office address: 1367 Connecticut Avenue, NW, suite 300;
Washington, DC 20036; Ph: +01/202/785/1950; Fax: +01/202/785/8701
Our apologies for publishing the incorrect address in LABELS Volume 1,
Forest Products Research Conference. September 15-18, 1997. Madison,
Wisconsin. Co-sponsored by the National Planning Committee and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. The conference will focus on two
themes: Industrial ecology: contributions of forest products technology;
and the use of economic instruments to achieve sustainable forestry.
The latter includes a panel on certification and ecolabels. For more
information contact Diann Campbell, Conference Coordinator, USDA FS
Forest Products Laboratory, One Gifford Pinchot Drive, Madison
Wisconsin, 53705 USA. Ph: +01/608/231/9244; Fax: +01/608/231/9592; E-
The 5th IFOAM International Conference on Trade in Organic Products: The
Future Agenda For Organic Trade. September 24-27, 1997. Oxford,
England. For more information, contact IFOAM Organic Trade Conference,
Mouse Lane, Steyning, BN44 3DG England. Ph: +44/1903/812/200; Fax: +44/
1903/879/052; E-mail: ifoamconf@natural products.co.uk.
What's In A Name: Eco-Labeling In The Global Food System. Paper
presented at the Joint Meetings of Agriculture, Food, and Human Values
Society and the Association for the Study of Food and Society, held in
Madison, WI, June 5-8, 1997. By Elizabeth Barham, Department of Rural
Sociology, Cornell University. Examines the emerging clashes between
corporations and eco-labeling proponents as reflective of a larger
struggle to moderate the effects of global market liberalization on
consumers, producers and environment. Copies are available for free via
e-mail by contacting <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Hard copies available for
$7.50 each by writing Elizabeth Barham, Department of Rural Sociology,
133 Warren Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, 14853 USA.
Green Business: Hope or Hoax? Toward an Authentic Strategy for Restoring
the Earth. Edited by Christopher and Judith Plant. New Society
Publishers, 1997. 144 pages, paperback. US$9.95. Offers 'green business'
analysis and case studies to examine the limits and possibilities of
using business as a tool for restoring the earth. Available at
bookstores or by contacting New Society Publishers, PO Box 189, Gabriola
Island, BC, V0R 1X0 Canada. Ph: +01/250/247/9737; Fax: +01/250/247/7471;
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Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Mark Ritchie,
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