Farmer Direct Co-operative Ltd, is a 100% farmer owned, 100% organic, 100% fair trade coop of family farmers. It is important to the sustainability of our coop and family farms for the OTA to be representing our views. To help make this happen we will be supporting candidates from 100% organic companies.
In March we wrote a letter to the OTA board stating our dissatisfaction with the direction and leadership of the OTA. Our main concern was and is that the OTA board is controlled by board members who work for or whose employer is owned by a conventional/GM food company. We believe this has created integrity issues at OTA which we outlined in our letter to the OTA Board linked here http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22624.cfm & http://www.organicconsumers.org/artman2/uploads/1/Summary_OTA_Renewal_March_2011.pdf.
The following is a brief update on the Organic Trade Association board elections:
Who's running? This following is a list of candidates and their various Organic, Natural, Conventional and GMO food and body care interests.
In the 100% Organic category are the following candidates by company name: Earthbound Farm, Wholesum Family Farms, Uncle Matt's, and Nature's Path
Comment: It's great to see two of the larger organic pioneers run for the OTA board, hopefully this will encourage some of the other large organic pioneers to do the same. The industry could use their leadership and vision. Uncle Matt's and Wholesum Family Farms are two examples of the bedrock of organic agriculture. Both are successful organic family farms that are also sourcing raw materials from other organic family farms or co-op's owned and controlled by organic family farms. Farmer Direct Co-op will be voting YES for the above four candidates.
In the Organic & Natural but Non-GMO category: Annie's, Wholesome Sweeteners
Comments: Because 'Natural' does not have an agreed upon definition in federal law we encourage companies who brand some of their products as 'Natural' to begin this process.
Branding products as 'Natural', in the absence of an agreed upon definition, creates ambiguity in the marketplace and in some cases consumers equate 'Natural' with organic. This is affecting the organic marketplace and the competitive pressures of 'Natural' is something we expect a 100% Organic OTA board would address. That being said, Wholesome Sweeteners, 'a joint venture between Imperial Sugar Incorporated, one of the largest US sugar companies, and Edward Billington & Son, Europe's leading importer of natural and organic unrefined sugars (from company website)' is a leader in fairtrade sugar, working and sourcing from Organic farmer co-operatives. For now, 'Natural' is the immediate concern to Organics. Before we would consider voting for these companies they would need to address their use of 'Natural' to market their products.
In the Organic & Natural but some GMO category: Frontier, UNFI, MOM's Organic Market
Comment: MOM's Organic Market, please visit their website (http://www.momsorganicmarket.com), is clearly an organic retailer on a mission. We will be voting for MOM's. Frontier Natural Products Coop, is a co-operative however they do have some GMO in their offerings (such as corn starch which is not labelled non-GMO on their website). We would also like Frontier to address their use of 'Natural' when marketing their products. Again, we feel that along with GMO, 'Natural' claims are the biggest threat to the organic marketplace and we feel uncomfortable with board members that offer both Organic and 'Natural' products. Regarding UNFI, again they need to address the amount of 'Natural' products they distribute before we would feel comfortable voting for them.
In the Organic & Conventional - Some GMO: Indianapolis Fruit Company
Comment: Indianapolis Fruit Company is a family owned business. We couldn't find much about organics on their website but we love the independents. However, most of the food they sell appears, from their website, to be conventionally grown produce.
In the Organic & Industrial - Mostly GMO: Small Planet Foods
Comment: Small Planet Foods is owned by General Mills. A small percentage of General Mills' U.S. retail sales are organic. Most of the food General Mills produces is conventional food and some of their products are produced using genetically modified organisms. Small Planet Foods already has a representative on the OTA board. My understanding is that his term is continuing. If this is correct, we don't feel it is proper for one company to have two representatives on one board.
Organic & Natural - Personal Care Products: Aubrey
Comments: As a result of the Organic Consumers Association's Coming Clean Campaign, Aubrey no longer labels its personal care products as organic unless they are USDA certified. However, Aubrey's product line is not 100% Organic.
Important News!: OTA has formed a Political Action Committee. This will shift OTA's focus from promotion of organics to lobbying for organics. We also fear that some OTA members will use the OTA PAC to further their own industry/political agenda's without consulting the rest of the organic community.
One more election cycle for a 100% Organic Board: If you believe that your ORGANIC Trade Association should be led by those from companies with 100% certified organic product lines and if you believe your ORGANIC trade assocation should be led by those without conflicts of interest in 'Natural' and GMO foods, then please consider running a candidate in the next election cycle. If you wish to be part of a '100% Organic member' working group of OTA (this working group has not been endorsed by OTA) please contact me (jason AT farmerdirect.coop).
Organic integrity benefits all OTA members. Blurring the lines between regulated Organics and unregulated 'Natural' does not benefit all OTA members. Please when you vote, vote for Organic Integrity.
jason AT farmerdirect.coop
Farmer Direct Co-operative Ltd
1536 Victoria Avenue
Regina, SK S4P 0P5 Canada
Tel: 306.352.2444 ext. 222
Farmer Direct Co-operative Ltd. is a farmer owned business that provides the world with ethically grown and traded food. Our co-operative of 60 Certified Organic , Fair Trade family farms and 120,000 acres of farmland produce high quality, 100% Certified Organic, Fair Trade grains, oilseeds, pulses and meats for food manufacturers, distributors, and food service providers in Canada, the United States, the European Union and Japan. FDC is a bulk supplier of organic grains specializing in containers, truckloads, railcars and 25lb bags of grain for retailers' bulk bins.
OTA Board Elections: Towards a 100% Organic Board
By Jason Freeman
Farmer Direct Co-operative, July 13, 2011
Straight to the Source