“Free Trade” Agreements Move Forward
Despite widespread protest from farmers, environmentalists and workers, the Obama Administration pushed through Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The new FTAs expand upon the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has led to weakened environmental standards, increased poverty in rural communities and watered down labor laws. A cross border alliance of farmers, consumers and fair traders have increasingly called for a renegotiation of NAFTA to ensure that farmers’ livelihoods are respected and maintained.
Fair Trade Shrimp on the Horizon
Fair trade continues to spread beyond coffee and tea. Soon, consumers may be able to fi nd fair trade certified organic or ecologically raised shrimp from Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia. Certified coops must adhere to IFOAM aquaculture standards and use bioremediation techniques to sustainably recycle waste into nutrients for local farms. Fisher coops have long looked for market access for their product, as the global marketplace is dominated by large-scale farmed fi sh operations. Fairtrade shrimping off ers a clear ecological alternative for consumers looking for ethical shrimp. Fairtrade International is focusing exclusively on shrimp during this pilot phase. IMO Fair for Life has a generic standard that is applicable for all fish and shellfish.
TEDx Tackles the Plight of Farmworkers
On Friday, October 14, at Mills College in Oakland, TEDxFruitvale: Harvesting Change brought together farmworkers, farmers, activists, artists, students, professors, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs to celebrate the people upon whom we depend to harvest our food. In three sessions – Meet, Movement, and Money – a diverse cast of speakers provided a 360-degree view of farmworkers today and throughout history; compared labor’s progress with other social justice movements; and ended by discussing how businesses could embrace fair labor practices.
Perils and Pitfalls in Fair Trade Cotton
A December 15th article by Bloomberg News exposed what it portrayed as forced child labor in an organic and fair-trade cotton program in Burkina Faso, which provided raw material for the lingerie line Victoria’s Secret. The US Department of Homeland Security is also investigating the matter. However, Fairtrade International (FLO) and the Burkina National Union of Cotton Workers have countered the allegations within the Bloomberg piece. While the jury may be out on the specifics in this case, fair trade has opened the eyes of many to the risks of child labor in various commodities, including cotton.
Equal Exchange’s Campaign for Authentic Fair Trade
Equal Exchange, one of the founding fair trade organizations in the United States, has issued a call to action to ensure that small farmer co-operatives remain at the center of the fair trade movement. Equal Exchange believes that cooperative organization is essential for small farmers to survive and thrive, and the cooperative model is an important vehicle for economic empowerment and social change.
“Fair Trade Says No to GMOs”
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals where the DNA has been artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria, in order to produce foreign compounds. This type of genetic alteration is not found in nature. Today, the majority of corn and soy grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered to produce pesticide and/or withstand high doses of weed killer. This corn and soy is found in countless processed foods such as cereals, baby foods, breads, chips, and many other products. GMOs are prohibited under FLO and IMO’s fair trade standards. To push back the spread and negative impact, a number of organizations and companies, including the Domestic Fair Trade Association and the Organic Consumers Association, have banded together to demand labeling of GMO products, including a petition to the US FDA and a citizen ballot initiative in California.