Fair Trade Towns – Good Idea or Hype?

Ran across this article and thought it a great idea. Awareness is getting stronger about Fair Trade (and I suspect corporations are behind a good deal of the hype and “bad press” about Fair Trade because they want to keep exploiting the poor while making themselves rich!)

When I found out that the coffee I drink every day is harvested on the backs of slaves, damages the environment, poisons not only the earth and the workers but ME because of the petrochemicals and pesticides in 99% of the world’s coffee…well, my morning cuppa java didn’t taste so good, ya know?

I’ve recently started drinking TRUE Fair Trade coffee…and it’s organic, shade grown, totally the BEST coffee I’ve ever had AND pays the coffee farmers 70% ABOVE the Fair Trade floor. Their farmers practice organic farming that is good for their environment and they don’t use petrochemicals or pesticides. I mean seriously, did YOU know you were drinking pesticides every morning? NO WONDER coffee used to taste so bitter to me…AND give me horrible headaches!

Visit Our Mission Coffee and learn the truth about YOUR coffee!

City mulls ‘Fair Trade’ moniker

Thursday, August 18th, 2011 By CLARK MASON

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Healdsburg could become the first “Fair Trade Town” in Sonoma County, part of an effort to promote fair labor practices and decent work environments in the production of imported food and goods.

Healdsburg City Council members this week expressed unanimous support for a resolution in support of the designation, which is intended to promote a fair wage and safe and healthy working conditions.

The idea is to make consumers more aware of the products they buy, avoid supply chains that rely on child labor and human trafficking, and guarantee fair wages to farmers and artisans.  >> Read Full Story

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Toxic Chemicals in Coffee…Say WHAT?

I drank Cherry Coke for years because I wanted caffeine and didn’t like either coffee or tea.  I stopped when I found out it really WAS melting my bones.  I’d always known it was bad for me but I was actually more concerned with the empty calories, the high sugar content and Diabetes. I kinda thought that Coke’s ability to “melt” objects was just an urban legend…I didn’t really believe if I put a spoon in Coke it would be gone the next morning, ya know?

But then I found out the bone melting thing was indeed true and, as I had just turned 50, the whole aging thing was starting to become something I figured I should probably pay attention to.  But my final straw was when my car wouldn’t start and I grabbed a bottle of Coke and poured it onto the battery acid.  And the acid melted and my car started right up.  Well, that and the headaches I’d started getting.  Turns out they’d started putting Aspertame in all Coke products (it went from real sugar to high fructose corn syrup to Aspertame) and whereas there is a lot of controversy about that particular sweetener, for me I just know it gives me headaches.

So I never drank coffee until I was 50 years old.  Mostly because I thought it tasted horrible…and I had my Cherry Coke.  For me, there wasn’t enough sugar in the world to mask the taste of coffee.  I used to tell people I loved the smell but it “tastes like liquid penicillin.”

Then there were the headaches I got the few times someone managed to get me to try some coffee drink with all kinds of things added to it…chocolate, whipped cream, whatever.  These headaches were nearly blinding to me…I’d wake up with one the next morning and just groan…the headaches were FAR worse than the Cherry Coke headaches and even more intense than the worst alcohol hangover I’d ever had!

Now I’m thinking these past experiences are due to 2 reasons:  1) stale coffee tastes bitter (it goes stale REALLY fast and most of what we buy in the stores is already stale); and 2) the toxic chemicals probably caused more bad taste PLUS world class headaches.

So I find out about the toxic chemicals in coffee. The idea REALLY freaked me out but the knowledge was even worse when I learned about the effects on the coffee farmers (and their families and communities.)  Since coffee is still hand picked…can’t be mass harvested…the farmers and workers are handling these nasty chemicals and the chemicals are in their communities.  One line in the article (where I got the list below from) said this :  “While the roasting process dilutes or eliminates the harmful effects of these chemicals for consumers, coffee workers and their families are still at high risk.”  

Sorry but you can’t convince me this crap somehow magically disappears once it’s processed…and the author did not give me any source for that statements.  In my experience, chemicals are “to the bone” so to speak.  In the soil, in the plant, in generations of the plants, in the water supply, stored in our brains, muscles, bones, etc.  I am NOT a fan of toxic chemicals and I sure don’t want to drink them, eat them or smear them on my skin!!!

It’s not only bad that farmers are getting paid slave wages for coffee (the 2nd most highly traded commodity on the planet; oil is the first) but to find out they’re being poisoned to do it?  No can do, period.  (Luckily I found an excellent alternative with Our Mission Organic Fair Trade Coffee…better taste, living wages and NO CHEMICALS!!)

Here are a few of the lovely chemicals in coffee:

Methyl Parathion

This is the most toxic pesticide of all. It is banned in many countries and is highly toxic to humans, birds, fish, and mammals. It’s used to fight leaf miner infestations. Leaf miners are insects that eat at leaves of plants.  Despite how dangerous it is, it’s still (mis)used in some countries.

Endosulfan

This pesticide is used against coffee cherry borer, a common coffee consuming bug. It’s doesn’t dissolve easily and takes ages to break down in soil and is toxic to most animals. It affects the central nervous system, reproductive organs, kidneys, and liver, and is considered to be worse than the pest itself; it’s even been responsible for human death!

Chlorpyrifos

This is also used against common coffee pests and has been banned in the US for household use because it has caused human death and birth defects. Needless to say, it’s quite detrimental to delicate ecosystems.

Triadimefon

Copper-based fungicide used to against coffee rust. Only slightly toxic to birds, little is known about its effect on humans, but it is suspected that there is potential for reproductive problems with chronic exposure.  It has been found to induce hyperactivity in rats. The major concern is that long-term use of this and other copper-based fungicides is copper accumulation in soils, such as that found in coffee farms in Kenya and in Costa Rica.  Copper toxicity has been found in other crops grown in these soils, and copper impacts other biochemical and biological processes in soil, and little is known about long-term effects in tropical ecosystems. The primary metabolite of triadimefon is triadimenol, which is Class III (slightly hazardous).

What’s the Difference Between Fair Trade, Sustainable and Organic? – Part 2

Part 2 of 2 of “What’s the Difference Between Fair Trade, Sustainable and Organic?”  >> Page 1 Here


C: If you’re using practices that end up contaminating the end product with dangerous toxic chemicals, the end product is going to taste bad, so that’s not going to fly.
NM: Ultimately you’re right, but if you had — God forbid — tea contaminated with mercury you wouldn’t taste it, and similarly, many of the (toxic) ways that (farmers) fertilize don’t have an effect on taste.

C:  My understanding, gained through what I’ve been told in a number of places, is that some of the small estates and small individual tea farms in China, as one example, are growing their tea organically partly because they can’t afford expensive chemical fertilizers, so they’re using traditional agriculture, which is, by definition organic, but they won’t ever be able to say that their tea is organically produced even though it is.
NM: Yes, well they certainly won’t be certified, so they can’t be officially organic. And yet, for thousands and thousands of years they’ve been organic … and balanced organic. They’re sustainable and organic, because they recycle everything back to the land.
C: Traditionally, sustainable agriculture is what works. If you’re a small farmer you need to create a system of growing that you can keep going and recycling. What would you say the difference is between sustainable farming versus organic and fair-trade? I mean, I understand what the difference is as expressed in the marketing language, but more specifically …
NM: Well, sustainable really means that you’re not using things up. Just as with organics, there are sustainability purists who say you should never use anything that can’t be replaced. And there are the sustainable realists who say we should at least eke out the non-renewable resources where we can, and wherever we can we’ll use renewable fuels, and if it’s not renewable we’ll go very carefully how we use it and how much of it we use. You have to draw that distinction. My camp is the realistic sustainability one.
C: You can’t set up restrictions that are so harsh that it makes it impossible to produce anything.
NM: People do.
C: I know they do, but they shouldn’t because ultimately it won’t work.
NM: I’ll give you an example of the dilemma that you might get into. I was working with a new tea grower in Hawaii — not one of the small guys that we’ve seen at the Expo, but someone who wanted to do it on a hundred-acre scale, 200-acre scale. He wanted to be organic, said the production must be organic. He was a berry farmer on the mainland, and he always had an organic farm, and he wanted to have an organic tea farm. So we started off and sourced his tea and his raw materials from Africa and got it planted, and his soil was not acid enough, which is unusual for Hawaii, but this was an old sugar-cane plantation and they’d put down a lot of chalk, to benefit the sugar cane. This was 20 years ago, but it was still there. The normal way that you’d acidify soil for tea is to put sulfur on it. Sulfur is recognized by the organic people; they’re happy with it. So he goes off to his supplier and when he sees the sulfur that he’s offered, he says, “where does it come from?” and they say it’s a by-product of the petrochemical industry, and he throws his hands up in horror! So we look and see what else we can get. It’s possible to get sulfur which is rock sulfur, mined sulfur. The dilemma is, would you rape the countryside with big holes, ripping out rock sulfur, or would you use a by-product of the petrochemical industry that has to go somewhere, and is at least greening the petrochemical industry at least a little bit?
C: Why would the organic regulations say that you couldn’t use petro-chemical by-products?
NM: the regulations don’t say that you shouldn’t, but they would prefer that you use the natural sulfur.
C: “Organic” meaning that you take it from the earth regardless of consequences? That makes no sense.
NM: No it doesn’t make a lot of sense. That’s why I say that sustainability and organic should be done with some degree of realism.
C: None of the national or international organizations that are promoting organic farming are really thinking in terms of sustainability, are they? I prefer not to make such a broad statement, but it seems like the focus is on something that’s almost more conceptual than practical.
NM: Absolutely, yeah that is the focus, because it’s all mediated in glass palaces in Europe or America and the people there don’t get out in the field a lot, and don’t see the issues directly and they have a set of ethics that they want to plant.
C: I could tell that, just listening to the people in the panel discussion talk about it. They haven’t all stood in a tea field. The way some of them were talking about the agriculture, they didn’t really understand how it worked. That distance from agriculture and the people directly involved in it also manifests into a somewhat condescending tone among some of the organizations promoting the organic, fair-trade and sustainability agendas. Even the representative from Utz was talking about teaching the farmers like they were five-year-olds and their organization was going to come in and teach them the right way to do things.
NM: Absolutely right. David Walker, President of Walker Tea, LLC, was telling someone a couple of days ago about how he represents a couple of coffee growers in Kenya and helps them get product to market. He was saying that some of these USAID people will come over and say to the Kenyans, “we’re going to teach you how to grow coffee the way the Americans like it.” [laughs] He took one of these coffee industry advisors aside, put his hand on his shoulder and said “these people have been growing coffee for three or four hundred years. They know how to grow coffee. You tell them how you want it. They can do it, but don’t go telling them that you’re going to teach them, because you are not.” So there’s a lot of that element of “experts who know best.”
C: Yes, it can be really preachy. The attitude about it is very removed from the reality of actual workers and actual plantation owners and actual growers, and for that matter, from the science of it, how things work. Although, I will say that the Rainforest Alliance was a little less like that because they seem like they’re a little bit more direct about how they get things done.  >> Read Full Article

What’s the Difference Between Fair Trade, Sustainable and Organic?

Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as higher social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers and gold.

Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as follows: An integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will last over the long term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs
  • Make the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

Sustainable agriculture in the United States was addressed by the 1990 farm bill. More recently, as consumer and retail demand for sustainable products has risen, organizations such as Food Alliance and Protected Harvest have started to provide measurement standards and certification programs for what constitutes a sustainably grown crop.

Sustainability issues are generally expressed in scientific and environmental terms, as well as in ethical terms of stewardship, but implementing change is a social challenge that entails, among other things, international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. “The relationship between human rights and human development, corporate power and environmental justice, global poverty and citizen action, suggest that responsible global citizenship is an inescapable element of what may at first glance seem to be simply matters of personal consumer and moral choice.”

Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm. Organic farming excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, and genetically modified organisms.  

Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1972.

IFOAM defines the overarching goal of organic farming as:  “Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved..”  — International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements

Since 1990, the market for organic products has grown from nothing, reaching $55 billion in 2009 according to Organic Monitor (www.organicmonitor.com). This demand has driven a similar increase in organically managed farmland. Approximately 37,000,000 hectares (91,000,000 acres) worldwide are now farmed organically, representing approximately 0.9 percent of total world farmland (2009).


The next page is from an article about tea but I thought a lot of what I put below would help people understand the difference between organic and sustainable and Fair Trade.  The first few lines I put in bold because I want people to understand the dangers of toxic chemicals in coffee!  >> View Page 2