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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Organic Coffee is Your Best Bet to Avoid Toxic Chemicals

From Coffee Review:  Coffee drinkers concerned about the impact of agricultural chemicals on environment and society have essentially three alternatives:

  • Buy a traditional coffee, grown as coffee was grown from its inception, before agricultural chemicals were invented. All Yemen, almost all Ethiopia, and most Sumatra Mandheling coffees are grown in such a state of innocence, and all are among the world’s finest.
  • Buy a certified organic coffee. Certified organic coffees are coffees whose growing conditions and processing have been thoroughly monitored by independent agencies and found to be free of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, and other potentially harmful chemicals. The monitoring agencies visit the farm and verify that no chemicals have been used on the farm for several years, and then follow every step of the processing, preparing, transporting, storage, and roasting. Such careful monitoring is of course expensive, which is one reason certified organic coffees cost more than similar uncertified coffees. Many such certified organic coffees are the product of socially and environmentally progressive cooperatives.
  • Buy a coffee labeled “sustainable.” At this writing sustainable is a rather loose term meaning that, in the view of the importer or roaster, designated farmers are doing everything within reason to avoid the use of agricultural chemicals and to pursue enlightened environmental and socially progressive practices in the growing and processing of their coffees.

The “loose” term “sustainable” gives rise to my concern about Starbucks again, darnit! “In the view of the importer or roaster” leaves a LOT of leeway (which means I have to trust that profit will never override this “view” and that any company, not just Starbucks, will choose to always do the right thing for the environment, the health of the farmers and the end consumer.)

Given American corporations great way of “spinning” truth and flat out lying, I have a hard time trusting…I dunno, call me skeptical…

Is Starbucks Really Fair Trade or Are They Just Saying They Are?

There was a huge amount of pressure put on Starbucks for years to carry and brew Fair Trade coffee.  They finally gave into the pressure and started carrying Fair Trade whole bean coffee called “Estima.”  But that’s not brewing and selling primarily Fair Trade coffee, now is it?

I was in the Green Hills Starbucks (in Nashville) last week and asked the guy behind the counter:  “Can I get Fair Trade, organic coffee already brewed?”  His reply floored me:  “Not together you can’t.  We don’t sell both organic and Fair Trade together.  You can have one or the other…but we’re out.”  Weird how my friends (in many different states) decided to see if I was crazy when I say “they ALWAYS say they just ran out!”  So a bunch of them tested me on it and sure enough, they ALL got the same “we just ran out line.”

Ummmmm, so I can choose between toxic chemicals or slave wage coffee ‘cuz Starbucks is always mysteriously out when you request fresh brewed?  Yuck.

Well, when I read the Starbuck’s site, it would seem that they are leading the charge in the Fair Trade /Organic / Sustainable coffee market and that 84% of their coffee is now Fair Trade.   But I suspect they’re “sort of” lying…which means I don’t know if they’re telling the truth or not and it really bugs me!

I’ve noticed a trend in big companies…they use Fair Trade and Sustainable interchangeably…and I personally suspect that is smoke and mirrors, folks. If 99% of the world’s coffee is NOT Fair Trade…then are the “sustainable” farmers Starbucks talks about ACTUALLY getting fair wages and prices for their crops?

By the same token, if farmer’s in developing countries are pressured into using sustainable farming practices…which is probably more expensive for them (but maybe not — petrochemicals and toxic pesticides are actually quite expensive) but don’t get fair prices…will they continue these practices?

Fair Trade means the  farmers are paid a fair living wage for the coffee they grow. Sustainable means farming practices that are good for the environment…but doesn’t mean that farmers who use these practices get a fair price for what they produce!

I’ve come up with something in my head that makes sense to me…”Save the People, Save the Planet.”  PEOPLE are the ones hurting the planet and some are doing so because they see no other way to support their hungry children (and I would do anything for my child as I’m sure you would too.)  So if that means cutting down the rainforest because people will buy the wood, then cut they will.

BUT if you work on saving the people and providing fair prices and allow them the dignity of earning a fair living…then they will work to save precious resources too.  I mean seriously, does anybody THINK that people in poor countries WANT to wipe out the planet we all share?  Of course they don’t!  But they want to feed their kids too and a hungry baby’s cries are more immediate then a desert forming where a lush tropical jungle once stood.

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).