Addressing Synbio and Genetic Engineering in Fair Trade and Eco-Social Certification

On June 16, Fair World Project sent letters to Fair Trade USA (FTUSA), Fairtrade International (FLO), Institute for Market Ecology (IMO), and Rainforest Alliance asking them to state and improve their positions on genetic engineering and especially synthetic biology (synbio). Synbio is a technology that allows chemical companies to create ingredients in vats via synthetic DNA inserted into microbes that are fed sugar or corn syrup. Becaues the stated intention of leading synbio manufacturers is to label and market synbio ingredients as “natural,’ they will undercut and compete unfairly with high value crops that provide sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers. We believe eco-social and fair trade certifiers should direct brands to purchase non-GMO and non-synbio ingredients and that the inclusion of any such ingredients in a composite product should be prohibited ideally or at a minimum clearly labeled to avoid confusion.

Read our letter to Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) [pdf file]
Read our letter to Fairtrade International (FLO) [pdf file]
Read our letter to Institute for Market Ecology (IMO) [pdf file]
Read our letter to Rainforest Alliance [pdf file]


What is Food Sovereignty?

“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.”

– Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, Mali, 2007

Storytelling of the Food Sovereignty Colloquium

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


A ‘Naked’ Fair Wash?

So, Naked Juice is getting into the fair trade game, marketing a new fair trade coconut water drink. Great news, right? Not so fast. Naked Juice recently launched a fair trade coconut water drink, certified by Fair Trade USA (FTUSA), raising major concerns for fair trade consumers and advocates. For Fair World Project’s take on FTUSA’ certification, and other fair trade certifiers, please see FWP’s Fair Trade Certifiers & Membership Orgs and FWP’s Certifier Analysis for multi-ingredient products.

Naked Juice is fully owned by Pepsico, one of the world’s largest junk food corporations.  Pepsico and Naked have been in the news of late, and not for corporate social responsibility accolades.  Pepsico was a major contributor to the No on Proposition 37 campaign, contributing 2.5 million dollars in 2012 to defeat the California citizen proposition to label genetically modified foods. Naked Juice recently settled a $9 million dollar class action lawsuit for misleading consumers, claiming their products were: “100% Juice,” “100% Fruit,” “From Concentrate,” “All Natural,” “All Natural Fruit,” “All Natural Fruit + Boosts” and “Non-GMO.” The lawsuit claimed that Naked Juice continued to use marketing slogans, like “All Natural” even though its products contain GMOs.

Prop 37: Your Right to Know

So, is Naked sincere in their first foray into fair trade? Naked’s fair washing is not unlike the fair washing dilemmas in the banana market. Do companies with terrible human rights records, like Dole and Chiquita, have a place in the fair trade movement, certifying a very small percentage of their total products, while continuing their deplorable practices? Should Naked Juice be allowed to market a fair trade product, representing a small fraction of their product line, without fundamentally altering their business practices? With transparency as a core fair trade value, can you trust a company that deliberately used false advertising?