Guest post by Hannah Findlay
Food has always been a big part of our lives. In the past it was either an object of constant worry for the poor, or a way for the rich to enjoy life through over-indulgent eating. Only in the past century have people started wondering about the healthfulness of our meals, and how food production is affecting the planet. Initially they were concerned about body image and health, the rising threat of cholesterol-related diseases and obesity, and finally people became aware of the dangers of unsustainable food production for future generations.
Today there are many food associations, movements and passionate small food producers who are devoted to transforming the food market. Consumers are also waking up to the fact that “corporate” food, or the products of many large companies, are indirectly destroying forests, animal habitats, plant variety and are contributing to many inhuman labor practices (child labor, exploitation of the poor, etc).
Eco labels have been around for several decades. Currently they are not mandatory. Food producers have to pay for third party organizations to evaluate their products and approve the use of an eco label on products if they meet all relevant criteria. Some well-known ecolabels are proof of non-GMO ingredients, guarantee of animal welfare, proof of carbon footprint reduction, certification of no pesticide use, etc.
Many studies show that consumers are willing to pay more for food that has some of these labels. The problem with these initiatives is that, as with all other things in the world, they are subject to manipulation and greenwashing practices. That means that some well-connected companies with a lot of money have ways to acquire eco labels even if their production methods do not comply with certification standards.
These issues are well explained in this resource on food sustainability initiatives and how eco labels affect the consumer. The article talks about the appearance of green initiatives, and encourages consumers to buy more from local producers. If local production was supported throughout the planet, it would help save natural habitats, conserve water and decrease gas emissions that result from food transportation. It is also easier for small food producers to produce quality food and control its quality.
The resource includes an infographic that summarizes the most important points of the article, including arguments for and against buying from big corporations / small producers, and how eco labels influence our buying decisions. Hopefully it will give you an overview of the current state of the food market, and how we can help.