Archive for January, 2011

Equal Exchange shares our shock and disappointment over yesterday’s USDA decision to deregulate Genetically Engineered Alfalfa. As a member of the National Organic Coalition, we will continue to fight to uphold the integrity of organic agriculture. For more information about the issue please read the following press release.

January 27, 2011

National Organic Coalition ‘Gravely Disappointed’ With USDA Decision To Allow Unrestricted Planting Of Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

Resolute in Continuing to fight for Organic Integrity

The National Organic Coalition (NOC) today is shocked and disappointed over the decision by USDA Secretary Vilsack to de-regulate Genetically Engineered (GE) Alfalfa.

“We appreciate the measures that the Secretary has announced to explore ways to develop the science to protect organic and other non-GE alfalfa farmers from contamination. However, to institute these measures after the GE alfalfa is deregulated defies commonsense,” said Michael Sligh, founding member of NOC. “Logically, efforts to develop the science of prevent GMO contamination should precede, not follow, any decision to deregulate GE crops.”

De-regulation with no oversight, enforcement or penalties by USDA is a green light for business as usual. Potential contamination from yet another genetically modified crop without independent health and environmental testing, or plans for liability, compensation, and labeling is of grave concern to organic farmers and consumers alike, according to NOC spokespersons.

“Organic and others are now left, once again having to take all the precautions while biotech takes little responsibility,” said Liana Hoodes, NOC Director. (more…)

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Equal Exchange is part of the National Organic Coalition and as such is opposing the deregulation of genetically engineered alfalfa.  Please read the Action Alert below and consider writing to the White House and/or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Thank you for your attention to this very urgent threat to small farmers and consumers alike. (more…)

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Equal Exchange has joined with other fully committed Alternative Trade Organizations, progressive retailers, non-profit organizations, and consumer activists to sign a petition requesting that TransFair discontinue its attempt to rebrand itself as Fair Trade USA. Please read the following press release written by the Organic Consumers Association and consider adding your name to the petition. Fair Trade is a movement with a strong mission behind it. It is not a brand!

Earth to TransFair: Fair Trade is a Movement Not a Brand!”: Coalition Forms to Stop Rebranding of TransFair as “Fair Trade USA”
January 10, 2011     

“For more than sixty years, hundreds of organizations allied with conscious consumers across the United States and the world have actively supported a different approach to trade based on dialogue, transparency and respect, in order to create greater equity in the international economic system. That approach is called Fair Trade,” says OCA Executive Director Ronnie Cummins.

Consumers and organizations dedicated to building equitable markets for disadvantaged farmers and artisans through Fair Trade, believe that the term should be celebrated as a movement, not a brand claimed by any one organization. “It is misguided and misleading for TransFair USA to attempt to claim jurisdiction over fair trade in the United States by changing their name to Fair Trade USA,” explains Cummins.

To help celebrate Fair Trade as a movement of many parts, OCA is asking consumers, stores, companies and organizations to sign a petition to urge TransFair to keep the name they have established. Leading fair trade organizations and companies have already signed their names. The petition can be found at:

Cummins continues, “TransFair previously trademarked the term ‘Fair Trade Certified’ and incorrectly represents itself as the ‘only fair trade certifier in the US.’ The name change is a further attempt to perpetuate the myth that TransFair is the only fair trade certifier in the American fair trade movement. It’s as if an organic certifier re-named itself ‘Organic USA’ and proceeded to aggressively promote itself as the only organic certifier in the US.”

FTC Complaint to Stop TransFair’s “FairWash” of Personal Care OCA has also joined forces with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, the top selling brand of certified fair trade soap to request the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launch an investigation of deceptive practices in advertising and labeling of certain “Fair Trade Certified” personal care products. OCA and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps are asking that the FTC prevent TransFair from continuing to allow brands such as Hain’s Queen Helene and Avon’s Mark to use as little as 2% certified fair trade ingredients in products while carrying identical ‘Fair Trade Certified’ marks as products made up mostly or entirely of certified fair trade content. The complaint and supporting exhibits may be viewed online at:

David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps stated that the FTC complaint is the last resort. “We have sent letters and held face to face meetings to stop TransFair from misleading consumers with deceptive fair trade marks and claims, which conflate products with majority and minimal fair trade content. The former provide real market volume for fair trade farmers; the latter sabotages that market. TransFair receives the same licensing fee for their look-alike marks on both majority and minimal fair trade content products, and is losing sight of its mission.”

The Fair Trade movement emerged decades ago with the goal of delivering a better standard of living to many impoverished farmers and workers in the developing world, where unfair and exploitative prices, wages and working conditions prevail, trapping millions in poverty.

The movement, fueled by hundreds of retailers, NGOs, mission-driven for-profit “Alternative Trading Organizations” and conscious consumers, has established criteria and standards for fair pricing, wages and working conditions in farming and processing of diverse commodities and products. Products certified to these standards empower farmers and workers, and their families and communities, enabling them to improve their lives and livelihoods.

One Fair Trade standard and certification organization is the Fair Labeling Organization (FLO), which has developed fair trade standards and certifies producer groups that comply with these standards. TransFair is the US arm of FLO, and receives a “licensing fee” from companies that use the TransFair logo on products that are certified or contain fair trade ingredients.

Another Fair Trade standard and certification system is the Institute for Market Ecology’s (IMO) Fair for Life program. Fully committed fair trade companies including Equal Exchange, Theo Chocolate and Dr. Bronner’s have chosen to use IMO rather than FLO/TransFair for several reasons. In particular, IMO does not allow use of its seal on products and brands that do not have a majority of fair trade certified ingredients or materials. Further, Fair for Life also broadened the scope of fair trade to allow for the certification of virtually all agricultural commodities produced in developing countries if Fair Trade conditions are met along the entire value chain.

The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is a US membership organization that accepts only dedicated fair trade “Alternative Trading Organizations,” and screens applicants against rigorous fair trade criteria. Fully committed fair trade companies such as Equal Exchange, Co-Op Coffees, Guayaki and Dr. Bronner’s are proud members.  

While TransFair has done an admirable job in promoting the concept of fair trade and broadening its visibility, OCA and Dr. Bronner’s are concerned that TransFair has permitted its certification to be used in ways that mislead consumers and has attempted to claim exclusive use of the term “Fair Trade” in ways that unfairly hurt other certifiers and undermine the fair trade movement.  

“Fair trade is a movement not a brand and it’s promise and reach is much bigger than that of TransFair or any single certifier or other fair trade organization,” says OCA’s Cummins.  

David Bronner continues, “Many in the movement feel that TransFair needs to be held accountable, and that consumers need to be educated about alternatives, in particular IMO’s Fair for Life certification program. To prevent TransFair from monopolizing and abusing the term “Fair Trade”, the Organic Consumers Association and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps have filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. It details the issues and problems with TransFair, along with illustrative examples of ‘fair trade cheater brands’ like Avon/Mark and Hain Celestial/Queen Helene.”  


To arrange interviews with representatives from the Organic Consumers Association or Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, please contact Ryan Zinn at 907-947-6046,  or Adam Eidinger at 202-744-2671

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